Report: Social media, YouTube fuel Covid-19 conspiracies

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Research from King’s College London and Ipsos Mori reveals that people who get their news from social media are more likely to believe in such coronavirus conspiracy theories.

In an online survey of over 2,000 people carried out in late May, 30 per cent thought that the coronavirus was created in a lab, up from 25 per cent in April. A similar proportion thought the true death toll from Covid-19 was being hidden by the authorities.

Some 13 per cent believed the pandemic was part of a global effort to force everyone to be vaccinated, and 8 per cent believed there was some connection between symptoms and radiation from 5G phone masts.

In an article in the journal Psychological Medicine, the researchers from King’s College described how people who believed in conspiracy theories tended to be more dependent on social media for information and were less likely to follow official health advice.

Some 60 per cent of those who believe that Covid-19 symptoms were linked to 5G radiation said that much of their information on the virus came from YouTube – while of those who believed that was false, just 14 per cent said they depended on the site.

People who had ignored official advice and broke lockdown rules despite having symptoms of the virus were also far more likely to have relied on YouTube for information.

“This is not surprising, given that so much of the information on social media is misleading or downright wrong,” said Dr Daniel Allington.

He said access to good quality information was getting even more important as lockdown rules were eased and people had to make their own decisions about what was safe or unsafe.

The survey suggested that TV and radio programmes are the main way most people get information about the virus, followed by newspapers and magazines.

But 45 per cent of 16-to-24 year olds said they got much of their information from YouTube, while nearly 40 per cent of the under-35s said Facebook was a major source for them.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have all outlined policies to try to combat misinformation about the virus.


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