Study Finds US President Greatest Source of Fake News About COVID-19

Misinformation in the COVID-19 pandemic has reached proportions at a scale previously unimaginable. Gone are the days where the high-bar for publishing and journalism could stop the flow of unsubstantiated claims. On the upside, we have more access to more information than at any other time in human history — the problem, of course, is that not all of it reflects reality.

Studies on tweets, in particular, have grown in popularity for their relatively inexpensive cost, and what we can learn about this medium that is largely unstudied.


From Jan 1 to the end of May 2020, 38 million Covid-related articles publishedCornell researchers randomly sampled and analyzed the data. The effort marks the first comprehensive analysis of both traditional and social media platforms, together.

Articles that mentioned US President Donald Trump and COVID-19 contained a massive share of the misinformation driving the infodemic — an epidemic of misinformation. Trump turned up in a full 37.9% of all Covid-related “fake news,” as he might call it.




The authors had no choice but to conclude that which was likely to come under fire: The biggest source of misinformation in America was its leader, meaning he hurt the effort to control the virus the most by a wide margin.


A paltry 16.4% of the misinformation articles related to fact-checking. That may show the greater tendency for viral spread of untrue claims or suggest that a majority of the inaccurate information went without being fact-checked. Other studies have shown significantly more sharing of incorrect information compared to corrective or accurate articles.

Study looking at tweets from the most recent Ebola outbreak | Percent of non-joke tweets containing factual statements | (Kirk Sell et al., 2020)