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Portal tracks claims and then gives info on whether they’re verified or debunked
With the abundance of COVID-19 information circulating online, researchers at Ryerson’s Social Media Lab have created a new tool to debunk false information regarding the virus.
The COVID19MisInfo Portal aims to put a spotlight on COVID-19 misinformation while also providing vital information for Canadians to protect themselves and others around them.
“Coronavirus misinformation is spreading quickly on social media,” said Anatoliy Gruzd, the director of research at Ryerson’s Social Media Lab. “We are starting to see that many of the tactics and tools used to spread politically motivated misinformation are now being used to spread misinformation about COVID-19.”
The portal features a misinformation dashboard that tracks claims from different sources. These claims are then put into different categories: false, misleading, unverified or true. The claims are debunked and verified by fact-checking agencies such as PolitiFact and Snopes.
The dashboard also includes the date that a claim was made, as well as the language it originated in.
“In general, false claims tend to be shared more frequently than corrections or public health announcements in many cases, likely due to their sensational nature,” said Gruzd.
The Government of Canada has invested $27 million to support Canadian researchers in learning more about COVID-19. On March 11, 2020, the federal government also provided a $478,000 research grant to Ryerson University and Royal Roads University to mitigate misinformation regarding COVID-19, leading to COVID19Misinfo Portal.
The portal is part of a two-year research initiative, titled “Inoculating Against an Infodemic: Microlearning Interventions to Address CoV Misinformation,” between the two universities.
The research at Ryerson University is being led by Gruzd and Philip Mai, the director of business and communications at the Ryerson Social Media Lab.
The Ryerson Social Media Lab is a research laboratory at the Ted Rogers School of Management and one of its focuses is on how social media is affecting communication in society.
Avoiding the spread of misinformation
Gruzd, who has previously published studies on social media and communications, said that social media plays a crucial part in this growing rate of misinformation being shared online.
In late January, a post circulated on social media claiming that two Ryerson students had contracted coronavirus. It was proven to be false shortly after.
“The reality is that social media sites and apps are already designed in a way to support effective and efficient information and misinformation sharing among networked members,” said Gruzd.
Gruzd recommends bookmarking credible health sources such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a reference when people stumble upon COVID-19 information they feel unsure about.
In addition, to combat the influx of misinformation, the COVID19MisInfo Portal offers a resource page that provides official information from Canada and each of its provinces.