54% of internet users think that they were exposed to misinformation about the origin of Covid-19

The spread of misinformation in the society has also accelerated with the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to the study conducted by Teyit, which conducts research on the information ecosystem in Turkey with Tandans Data Science Consultant, more than half of the participants think they were exposed to misinformation about the origin of Covid-19.

*** This release is originally published in Turkish.
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ISTANBUL (TR) – Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Turkey, the spread of misinformation has accelerated due to the uncertainty caused by the fact that it is a virus first encountered. In the process, while searching for answers to questions such as “Why did the virus appear? How can we protect against the virus? When will this epidemic end?” increased, information pollution in the media has also increased. The independent verification platform, Teyit examined how the information ecosystem in Turkey was affected by the pandemic with Tandans Data Science Consultancy in its research titled “The problem of misinformation in the pandemic process: misinformation, news consumption and confirmation behaviors”. In a survey of 1025 internet users selected using random sampling method to represent the general population of Turkey, participants stated that they had found misinformation about Covid-19 before the virus seen in Turkey. It also pointed out that when respondents were asked which news source they most encountered misinformation, 49 percent cited news programs on television.

The most believed conspiracy theory in the survey was the claim that the virus was developed in a laboratory environment.
According to the results of the research announced by Teyit, conspiracy theories for the pandemic and treatment methods claimed to be effective in preventing the new coronavirus constituted the content of misinformation. The most commonly believed false statement in the survey was the proposition “The virus was developed in a laboratory environment”, with 47.4 percent of the respondents answering “I believe”. This was followed by the proposition “A state deliberately spread the virus” with 37.4 percent, while the proposition “Gargling with hot water prevents the virus in the throat from causing disease” ranked third with 28.5 percent. In addition, it was determined that the increase in education level was related to the decrease in the level of belief in false propositions. It turns out that the belief in the proposition that “The virus is developed in a laboratory environment” is not related to the level of education.

Misinformation is thought to be most exposed in the first weeks of the pandemic.
The study also raised questions about the period during which participants encountered the most misinformation. Misinformation about Covid-19 was most commonly found in the first weeks of the pandemic, with 26.5 percent, according to the study. This was followed by the progression of the pandemic with 26.2 percent, the period before the virus first seen in Turkey with 24.6 percent, and the process after the official announcement of the return to normal with 13.7 percent. 9 per cent said they had not encountered suspicious or false information.

News programs that are responsible for misinformation
Participants in the study were also asked in what sources they came across incorrect information about Covid-19. 49 per cent said misinformation was found in the most televised news programs, followed by news sites on the internet with 41.2 per cent. Respondents said they were exposed to misinformation on Facebook 37.7 percent, 30.2 percent on televised discussion programs, 30 percent on closed messaging apps like WhatsApp, 28.5 percent on Instagram, 27.7 percent on Twitter, 13.4 percent on television morning programs, 12.4 percent on newspaper, 12 percent on newspaper columnists and 7 percent on radio.

48% rely on information from family members
During the pandemic, it was frequently encountered that voice recordings regarding Covid-19 were circulated and various claims were shared in closed messaging applications such as WhatsApp, where communication with family members and the immediate environment was maintained. In the study, it was found that there is a relationship between the frequency of use of these applications and the trust in the information received from family members and friends. In this context, 48 percent of the participants stated that they found the information from family members and friends reliable, while 78 percent of the participants stated that they found scientists and health professionals reliable in this process, and 72 percent stated that they trusted people with the disease.

One in two respondents says they confirm content when they don’t trust news source
The study also shed light on how people felt the need to confirm when before sharing a news story. When respondents were asked in which cases they activated their confirmation reflexes, the first place was the “in cases where I don’t trust the news source” option, with 54.7 percent. The” if it has content that contradicts what I know before” option was second with 39.4 per cent, followed by the “if I think the news is open for discussion” option with 37.6 per cent and “if I want to know more about the news” option with 32.3 per cent. The proportion of those who said they had confirmed every news they had read in the past two months was recorded as 24.5 per cent.

Over 200 suspicious contents regarding the pandemic were examined
Teyit Chief Editor Gülin Çavuş, who made evaluations regarding the table revealed by the research, stated that they have examined over 200 suspicious contents about the coronavirus as of August 2020 and said, “In the report, we tried to understand how our impressions of the pandemic process in Teyit coincide with the attitudes of individuals. In this type of crisis, where uncertainty is intense, the spread of misinformation can increase. Especially during the pandemic, which is closely related to public health, the intensity of such sharing can become a major threat to society. Therefore, the questions we are looking for in the research provide an opportunity to understand the participants’ approach to the subject. It was therefore a valuable experience for us to capture whether there was any change in the pandemic process in people’s behavior of news consumption and confirming information. We will continue to pursue this type of research.”