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A Tortoise File

Infodemic II

We want to find out who has been peddling medical misinformation in the midst of a global pandemic.

Infodemic II

First published
Monday 3 August 2020

Last updated
Monday 8 February 2021

Why this story?

Disinformation continues to disorient us. Last December, Tortoise tracked the untruths in the UK general election. In March we investigated the torrent of fake news about Covid-19 as it spread around the world. Now we want to find out who has been peddling medical misinformation in the midst of a global pandemic.

Working with disinformation investigator, Raymond Serrato, we have scraped 145,000 public posts relating to known examples of medical misinformation on Facebook and Instagram. In doing so, we have been able to identify a new breed of ‘super-spreaders’; a small group of social media accounts consistently spreading misinformation relating to public health, and to great effect. Our findings suggest that just like a few unusually contagious individuals who transmit the majority of coronavirus cases, a minority of social media accounts are responsible for the majority of public health misinformation. David Taylor, editor

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