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Donald Trump is biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation: study

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Donald Trump (AFP / Nicholas Kamm)

US President Donald Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of Covid-19 misinformation during the pandemic, a study from Cornell University said Thursday.

A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science evaluated 38 million articles published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between January 1 and May 26 of this year.

The database they used aggregates coverage from countries such as the United States, Britain, India, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other African and Asian nations.

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They identified 522,472 news articles that reproduced or amplified misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, or what the World Health Organization has called the “infodemic.”

These were categorized into 11 main sub-topics, ranging from conspiracy theories to attacks on top scientist Anthony Fauci to the idea that the virus is a bioweapon unleashed by China.

But the most popular topic by far was what the study authors termed “miracle cures,” which appeared in 295,351 articles — more than the other 10 topics combined.

The authors found that comments by President Trump drove major spikes in the “miracle cures” topic, led by his April 24 press briefing where he mused on the possibility of using disinfectants inside the body to cure the coronavirus.

Similar spikes were seen when he promoted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine.

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“We conclude therefore that the president of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic,'” the team wrote.

Sara Evanega, who led the study and is director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, said: “If people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

Co-author Jordan Adams, a data analyst at Cision Insights that provided the database, added: “One of the more interesting aspects of the data collection process was discovering the staggering amount of misinformation coverage directly linked to the public comments of a small number of individuals.”

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After miracle cures, the second-most prevalent misinformation topic was that the pandemic was created to advance a “new world order.”

Next came the claim that the pandemic was a hoax for political gain by the US Democratic Party, followed by conspiracies alleging the virus was a bioweapon released by a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

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Conspiracy theories linking the pandemic to philanthropist Bill Gates came next, then the hoax that Covid-19 symptoms are caused by 5G phone networks, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the notion that the virus is a form of population control.

Attacks on US government scientist Fauci, references to the debunked “Plandemic” video, and blaming the virus on Chinese people consuming bat soup rounded off the list.

The study authors also tracked how the stories were shared on social media, finding that the posts elicited 36 million engagements, three-quarters of them on Facebook.

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The research was partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

© 2020 AFP


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Trump mask-shames CBS reporter Lesley Stahl — and ominously warns ‘much more to come’

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President Donald Trump has spent months belittling people for wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His anti-mask attitude reportedly resulted in White House and campaign staff not wearing masks so as to avoid angering their boss.

And Trump has repeatedly attacked Joe Biden for wearing facial coverings -- even after the president was hospitalized for COVID-19.

But on Tuesday, Trump dramatically shifted his position and mask-shamed CBS "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl, posting video of her not wearing a mask while Trump was.

Trump included video of their interview in his tweet:

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Trump’s strategy against Joe Biden and the coronavirus is to increasingly accept defeat: columnist

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In an op-ed for the New York Times this Tuesday, Ross Douthat says that the Trump administration is beginning to see the writing on the wall as Election Day grows closer.

According to Douthat, Trump's 2020 campaign "has been stuck toggling back and forth between two very different narratives."

"One seeks to replay the last campaign, portraying Joe Biden as the embodiment of a failed establishment (hence all the references to his 47 years in Washington) who will sell out American interests to China as soon as he’s back in power," he writes.

The other is Trump apparently insistence in running against Joe Biden as if he's Bernie Sanders. While a skilled campaigner could have weaved these narratives together, their contradictions are more obvious when coming from Trump. "The resulting incoherence just feeds his tendency to return to old grudges and very online grievances, as though he’s running for the presidency of talk radio or his own Twitter feed," writes Douthat.

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2020 Election

WATCH: Lincoln Project targets Pennsylvania voters with devastating new ad as Trump visits the state

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In a new ad released Tuesday for The Lincoln Project, the narrator says, "There's mourning in Pennsylvania. Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored. Praising China's response instead of heeding the warnings, then blaming them to cover his own failures."

The ad continues, "With the economy in shambles, people in Pennsylvania are still out of work. One of the worst economies in decades."

The ad was released on the same day President Donald J. Trump planned to visit the state.

Watch the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUtFHhd9G5k

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