Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review (Jun 2020)

The causes and consequences of COVID-19 misperceptions: Understanding the role of news and social media

  • Aengus Bridgman,
  • Eric Merkley,
  • Peter John Loewen,
  • Taylor Owen,
  • Derek Ruths,
  • Lisa Teichmann,
  • Oleg Zhilin

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. 3


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We investigate the relationship between media consumption, misinformation, and important attitudes and behaviours during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We find that comparatively more misinformation circulates on Twitter, while news media tends to reinforce public health recommendations like social distancing. We find that exposure to social media is associated with misperceptions regarding basic facts about COVID-19 while the inverse is true for news media. These misperceptions are in turn associated with lower compliance with social distancing measures. We thus draw a clear link from misinformation circulating on social media, notably Twitter, to behaviours and attitudes that potentially magnify the scale and lethality of COVID-19.