Social media monitoring is more critical than ever recently because of its ability to follow online coronavirus conversations on top social media sites. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of the millions of conversations that people are having about the global pandemic. Brands are increasingly panicked about the implication that this virus will have on their business and even broader, the global economy.
The U.S. stock market plummeted to the lowest they’ve been since 1987. Businesses large and small have had to be flexible in a time of uncertainty. The ability to adapt to the “new normal” of working from home conditions for employees and continuing their business is crucial. Amid all this chaos, however, there has been misinformation flying around on social media channels and personal text conversations.
According to The Guardian, a special unit housed in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport in the UK has been set up to counter coronavirus-related disinformation. The group has been working closely with social media companies to refute false and inaccurate claims about the disease. The department identifies incorrect information that is deliberately spread online and establishes its scope, impact, and whether it needs to be actively countered.
Global Opinions on the News Media
According to polling conducted by Ipsos, respondents in many countries have changed their opinions regarding whether or not they believe that the media is exaggerating about COVID-19.
With soft quarantines in place, Facebook, Twitter, and other services are taking on entirely new importance as a connection between families, friends, and coworkers, and a source of entertainment. As we become more isolated physically, social media and the web will also have to shoulder the world’s information needs as more and more people seek timely and local information.
And yet the World Health Organization worries that in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, they must also combat an infodemic. WHO defines in infodemic as “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
We wanted to take a closer look at how the world’s top social media sites are combatting misinformation in an uncertain time.
Tech Giants and Top Social Media Sites Coming Together to Fight Misinformation
In a joint industry statement released on March 16th, 2020, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and Youtube all pledged to combat fraud and misinformation about the virus. They intend to elevate and promote content from official government healthcare agencies.
There have been many myths flying around the web that have no substantiating information to go along with them. Some of these include claims that “the virus was created to destroy countries” and that it is a form of “biowarfare.” Employees at NewsGuard—which rates the credibility of news and information sites—have been tracking all the websites in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, and France that have spread verifiably false claims about the coronavirus. So far, they have identified 132 such sites, and the single most popular topic of misinformation has been about the virus’ origin.
Sites have inaccurately tied the disease to 5G wireless technology, Bill Gates, and African migrants to Italy. A particularly popular unproven theory began with a story published on GreatGamesIndia.com, entitled “Coronavirus Bioweapon–How China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It.”
It is extremely important to note that these myths have real implications. The work being done by the CDC and WHO to contain the virus reveals that the prevalence of myths is actually one of the biggest risks to containing the virus.
According to social listening software, Twitter is by far the most used social platform when discussing the coronavirus epidemic. It is unsurprising that Twitter has experienced the most claims of misinformation being spread on their platform. This could be due to the exponentially larger volume of posts on the platform or the nature of the platform, where users quickly retweet information without necessarily checking it.
When searching for coronavirus on Twitter, the first thing that comes up is this blurb and link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. “Know the facts: To make sure you get the best information on the novel coronavirus, resources are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
First and foremost, Twitter wants to inform its users about the disease before engaging in any of the millions of conversations flying around on the social web. Twitter itself isn’t the only source of misinformation, however. Text chains like the one disproven in the tweet below have flown around cities in the United States and globally using scare tactics and fear-mongering.
Misinformation in the Mix
This tweet from @FreddiGoldstein, New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio’s press secretary disproved the scary notion that the entire New York City public transportation system was shutting down.
Even reputable news sites such as Forbes and Bloomberg are publishing conflicting information. Here are two tweets that came out within one minute of each other on March 17th, 2020. One claimed that Brazilian president Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 after meeting U.S. President Trump, and one tweet claimed that he tested negative. The speed at which information flies around may indirectly be spreading confusion at a volatile time.
Twitter has realized that they have a responsibility to suppress or get rid of false claims about COVID-19. The social media company vowed to “protect the public conversation about COVID-19.” Twitter’s goal is to “elevate and amplify authoritative health information as far as possible.” This measure set a precedent for other social media giants to come out with information about how they will combat this misinformation.
Facebook released a statement regarding misinformation that may occur surrounding the global pandemic. It reads as follows:
“In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Facebook is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January, we’ve taken steps to make sure everyone has access to accurate information, stop misinformation and harmful content, and support global health experts, local governments, businesses and communities.”
On March 3rd, Mark Zuckerberg reiterated in a Facebook post that the platform planned on removing conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus. Global health organizations are flagging these theories. Additionally, the platform labeled coronavirus misinformation with “fact check” labels to let users know that they rated such content as false. Zuckerberg also said that Facebook is providing the World Health Organization (WHO) “as many free ads as they need.” At the same time, Zuckerberg said the company would block ads that try to exploit the situation, such as those that claim a product has a miracle cure for the Covid-19 disease.
Instagram, now owned by Facebook, has implemented similar rules when dealing with misinformation about the pandemic. When searching for coronavirus content on Instagram, all posts are initially blocked, and the user is directed to the CDC first. Users can reveal the posts by clicking “see posts.” Users must make an informed decision to see content knowing that it might not necessarily be fact-checked and accurate.
However, with regards to some content, such as someone posting that “drinking bleach cures the coronavirus,” the information is removed as well as “block[ing] or restrict[ing] hashtags used to spread misinformation on Instagram.” This statement is in line with Mark Zuckerberg’s comment on Facebook to provide the most accurate information possible.
LinkedIn has first and foremost joined the joint statement by large social media industry players vowing to combat misinformation. Due to the nature of the platform, individuals are not spreading their opinion quite as widely as they are on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. LinkedIn has dedicated a page in its top news bar to providing a platform for official government agencies and news outlets to house their content. They are emphasizing the importance of reliable, official updates and puts that information in user’s faces before other content.
What does this all mean for me?
In a world that is changing incredibly fast, social media connects us to loved ones, friends, and coworkers. This pandemic is unlike any other time in history because nearly everyone always has phones in their pockets and televisions. Everyone is working from home, learning from home, and spending all their time near roommates, family members, or partners. Outlets like the New York Times questioned whether the internet could even handle the increased amount of activity.
Social media allows us to continue to communicate with each other, play games, and perhaps even lift the dreary fog of boredom hanging over everyone’s self-quarantine. However, when there is an increased amount of false information flying around, anyone can become a victim. While the top social media sites are unified in their front to combat misinformation, it also falls upon the individual to make sure that their information comes from reliable sources.
Using social listening technology, we can sift through millions of conversations instantly to see which platforms are experiencing the most traffic, what keywords and topics are getting the highest volume of discussion, and many other metrics that help give a bit more insight into a confusing and frustrating time. Using data-backed information, brands can understand why conversations are trending in specific directions and can discover how to best position their brand in a difficult time.
Want to learn more about how Synthesio is monitoring the top social media sites and conversations about the coronavirus? Request a demo today.