The fake news ecosystem may have had its eyes glued on the coronavirus ever since the pandemic began, but it will by no means leave other trending topics slip by. An analysis of our fact checks from the past two months show that the misinformation circuit has been extremely responsive to current events, especially those that are sudden and shocking.
While most of May was riddled with misinformation on lockdown and migrant workers, there was a sudden change in topic towards mid-June, as a bulk of our fact checks (54%) were dedicated to the India-China conflict after the Galwan Valley clash on June 15.
Furthermore, a number of shocking events such as anti-racism protests in the United States and the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput were found to inspire massive misinformation campaigns, in India and abroad.
In our previous study, we looked at 178 coronavirus-related fact checks done by BOOM between January and May. The results showed that a bulk of our fact checks were on communal rumours that targetting Muslims with false allegations of spreading the virus intentionally. These trend began in April, after several members of the Tablighi Jamaat - an Islamic Missionary group, tested positive for the virus following a massive congregation in Delhi in March.
The previous study revealed that the topic of fake news being disseminated closely resembled real events. We now decided to look at all our fact checks from May and June (including those unrelated to COVID-19), to see if such a trend would be true for other topics in different time periods.
We analysed 174 fact checks in the mentioned time period, and found 66 of them (37.9%) to be COVID-19-related. Furthermore, 27 fact checks were related to China (15.5%), while 18 of them (10.3% of the fact checks) were related to politics.
Most of the fake news we encountered came with videos (44.4%), which was closely followed by images (41.5%). Text based misinformation formed a much smaller portion (14%) of the overall fact checks we did during this time.
This goes on to show that videos and images are still dominant in the fake news ecosystem, and are highly potent forms of misinformation.
Let us now look at how the topic of misinformation changed in these two months.
In the next page, we'll take a closer look at COVID-19 related trends from this period, as it still remains a dominant topic in fake news.
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