A Cornell University study of more than 38 million articles about the pandemic has identified the ‘single largest driver’ of coronavirus misinformation – and there’s no prizes for guessing who it is.
US president Donald Trump made up nearly 38 per cent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
The study, published at the end of September, was the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, and another that purported to trace the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, to people who ate bat soup.
But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The study has been making the rounds on social media after the president tested positive for coronavirus and was airlifted to hospital.
A White House spokeswoman stressed that the hospital stay was “out of an abundance of caution” and that the 74-year-old would work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to continue his official duties.
Mr Trump is at higher risk of hospital admission and death from Covid-19 due to his age, gender and weight.
The 74-year-old falls into the high risk group purely because he is male – with men around twice as likely to die from coronavirus as women.