IF ANY GROUP understands the toll misinformation can take on the public understanding of science, it’s climate scientists. For years, they have been trying to convey the findings from a ceaseless stream of studies showing the world is warming, while combating misinterpretations and outright fake news. A similar infodemic—a surplus of information both legitimate and misinformed—now plagues the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the internet era, when research papers are readily available, everyone can become an expert on COVID-19 or climate change. But pundits can also cherry-pick the data that matches their beliefs and seem to speak with authority. These types of personalities appear in traditional media such as television, but their work truly thrives on social and video-streaming platforms. Part of the reason is social media remains largely unregulated, and the attention—the “likes” and engagement—we receive on a post can incentivize us to share.
Even when politicians are not spreading misinformation, people can struggle to discern what is real. In a study published in late June in Psychological Science, scientists recruited 1,700 adults to track what influenced their likelihood to share COVID-19 misinformation on social media.
Read the whole story: National Geographic