Fake News Post-COVID-19

A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 March 2024) | Viewed by 13922

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Communication Sciences, Jaume I University, 12071 Castelló de la Plana, Spain
Interests: reformulation of journalism and political communication in the digital environment; social media; media ethics; disinformation; fact checking; entrepreneurship in journalism; personal branding in journalism

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Guest Editor
Department of Sociology and Communication Sciences, University of A Coruña, 15001 A Coruña, Spain
Interests: corporate communication; communication for health; mobile and transmedia communication

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Communication Sciences, Jaume I University, 12071 Castelló de la Plana, Spain
Interests: journalism; political communication; social media

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The dissemination of deliberately false information has worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, entailing consequences for journalism and democracy. The pandemic has intensified a bad practice that was already on the rise in the field of political communication as a result of the discourse of politicians such as Donald Trump on platforms such as Twitter (Ross and Rivers, 2018). In fact, it has been confirmed that much of the misleading information concerning the coronavirus was received through social media and instant messaging systems (Nielsen et al., 2020). The growing proliferation of fake news has encouraged the academy to theorize about the types of hoaxes spreading in the digital environment (Salaverría et al., 2020) and their impact on the traditional media system (Casero-Ripollés, 2020). The study of fact checking as a practice to tackle misinformation has also awoken interest (Amazeen, 2020; Graves, 2017). In addition, the focus has been transferred to citizenship, especially to find out how social media users respond to fake news (Tandoc et al., 2020). However, these lines of research are still incipient, and we need more empirical work to improve the democratic quality of public debate and journalism in the post-COVID-19 era.

The generic aim of this Special Issue is to delve into the aforementioned lines of research. For this reason its scope extends to very diverse fields: journalism, political communication, sociology, ethics, fundamental rights and teaching, among others. In this respect, several specific goals are proposed in order to:

  • Assess the impact of the rise of fake news in journalism and apply solutions to tackle it.
  • Identify which factors and social actors influence the origin and viralization of fake news.
  • Analyze the role of social media and instant messaging applications users in the spread of fake news.
  • Investigate the consequences of the consumption of fake news in the civic and political attitudes and behaviors of citizens.
  • Diagnose the main difficulties of citizens in detecting hoaxes and identify resources to remedy them.
  • Include strategies and resources in the teaching of journalism to improve skills in verifying information in the digital environment.

Contributions have to follow one of the three categories of papers (article, conceptual paper or review) for the journal and address the topic of the special issue.

Prof. Dr. Amparo López-Meri
Prof. Dr. Carmen Costa-Sánchez
Prof. Dr. Silvia Marcos-García
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • fake news
  • post-truth
  • misinformation
  • disinformation
  • fact checking
  • social media
  • journalism
  • political communication
  • democracy

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

29 pages, 5902 KiB  
Article
Disinformation and Fact-Checking in the Face of Natural Disasters: A Case Study on Turkey–Syria Earthquakes
by Sandra Méndez-Muros, Marián Alonso-González and Concha Pérez-Curiel
Societies 2024, 14(4), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc14040043 - 23 Mar 2024
Viewed by 837
Abstract
Natural disasters linked to contexts of unpredictability and surprise generate a climate of uncertainty in the population, resulting in an exponential increase in disinformation. These are crisis situations that cause the management of public and governmental institutions to be questioned, diminish citizens’ trust [...] Read more.
Natural disasters linked to contexts of unpredictability and surprise generate a climate of uncertainty in the population, resulting in an exponential increase in disinformation. These are crisis situations that cause the management of public and governmental institutions to be questioned, diminish citizens’ trust in the media, and reinforce anonymity in social networks. New digital algorithms create a scenario plagued by fake news and levels of viralization of rumors never before contemplated. Our objective is to analyze the verification capacity of fact-checking agencies at X at times of information disorder, such as the Turkey–Syria earthquakes in 2023. We apply a mixed methodology of comparative content analysis to government, news agency, and IFCN accounts, generating a general sample (n = 46,747) that is then subjected to thematic categorization to create a specific sample (n = 564). The results indicate a low commitment to fact-checking on the part of official bodies and news agencies, as opposed to fact-checking agencies’ accurate handling of the facts. The lack of debate and engagement generated by digital audiences in the face of the discursive intentionality of disinformation is significant. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
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13 pages, 1489 KiB  
Article
Fake News in the Post-COVID-19 Era? The Health Disinformation Agenda in Spain
by Carmen Costa-Sánchez, Ángel Vizoso and Xosé López-García
Societies 2023, 13(11), 242; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13110242 - 15 Nov 2023
Viewed by 2061
Abstract
Three years after a pandemic that demonstrated the importance of reliable health information in a news agenda dominated by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we analyze the situation of health disinformation in Spain on the basis of the verifications carried out by its main [...] Read more.
Three years after a pandemic that demonstrated the importance of reliable health information in a news agenda dominated by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we analyze the situation of health disinformation in Spain on the basis of the verifications carried out by its main fact-checking platforms. The results show that COVID-19 shared center stage with other topics in the health area. In addition, a unique agenda is evident in each situation in the study, indicating a fact-checking strategy that is differentiated according to the media outlet and type of specialization (generalist fact-checker or one specialized in health). Vaccination, nutrition, and disease treatment emerge as the most important thematic subfields. Most health hoaxes are manufactured, i.e., created from scratch, rather than being manipulated or reconfigured from real preexisting elements. The format of text and image together predominates, and new social networks (TikTok or Telegram) have appeared as platforms for the circulation of hoaxes. This indicates that providing necessary health literacy to society and giving health issues greater presence in current fact-checking agendas are strategies for combatting disinformation, which can have serious consequences, regardless of whether there is a public health crisis such as the one experienced recently. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
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16 pages, 312 KiB  
Article
Explanatory Journalism within European Fact Checking Platforms: An Ally against Disinformation in the Post-COVID-19 Era
by Victoria Moreno-Gil, Xavier Ramon-Vegas, Ruth Rodríguez-Martínez and Marcel Mauri-Ríos
Societies 2023, 13(11), 237; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13110237 - 07 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1513
Abstract
In the post-COVID era, explanatory journalism is undergoing a resurgence that can be attributed to the proliferation of false content disseminated via social networks and the maturation of fact checking initiatives. Fact checkers are beginning to delve into those topics that are recurrent [...] Read more.
In the post-COVID era, explanatory journalism is undergoing a resurgence that can be attributed to the proliferation of false content disseminated via social networks and the maturation of fact checking initiatives. Fact checkers are beginning to delve into those topics that are recurrent targets of disinformation to make complex issues accessible to the public. This study investigates the characteristics and methodologies of contemporary explanatory journalism by analysing four European verification platforms (Newtral in Spain, Les Décodeurs in France, FACTA.news in Italy and The Journal FactCheck unit in Ireland). We employed content analysis of a corpus of explainers and semi-structured interviews with the managers of these outlets. Our findings reveal that explainers encompass a wide range of topics, typically revolving around current affairs. These pieces are usually authored by fact checkers and published, with bylines, within dedicated sections that encourage audience participation. Explainers do not adhere to a fixed periodicity or length and adopt a format similar to feature articles, displaying a degree of flexibility. They leverage data provided by experts and official sources and employ visual elements to convey information clearly. The interviewed managers concur that explanatory journalism represents an invaluable tool in combatting disinformation and has a promising future ahead. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
23 pages, 608 KiB  
Article
Doctors for the Truth: Echo Chambers of Disinformation, Hate Speech, and Authority Bias on Social Media
by Joana Milhazes-Cunha and Luciana Oliveira
Societies 2023, 13(10), 226; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13100226 - 23 Oct 2023
Viewed by 2523
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyser of one of the most prolific waves of disinformation and hate speech on social media. Amid an infodemic, special interest groups, such as the international movement of “Doctors for the Truth”, grew in influence on social [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyser of one of the most prolific waves of disinformation and hate speech on social media. Amid an infodemic, special interest groups, such as the international movement of “Doctors for the Truth”, grew in influence on social media, while leveraging their status as healthcare professionals and creating true echo chambers of COVID-19 false information and misbeliefs, supported by large communities of eager followers all around the world. In this paper, we analyse the discourse of the Portuguese community on Facebook, employing computer-assisted qualitative data analysis. A dataset of 2542 textual and multimedia interactions was extracted from the community and submitted to deductive and inductive coding supported by existing theoretical models. Our investigation revealed the high frequency of negative emotions, of toxic and hateful speech, as well as the widespread diffusion of COVID-19 misbeliefs, 32 of which are of particular relevance in the national context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
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13 pages, 295 KiB  
Article
Combatting Fake News: A Global Priority Post COVID-19
by Elvira Calvo-Gutiérrez and Carles Marín-Lladó
Societies 2023, 13(7), 160; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13070160 - 05 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2082
Abstract
This paper reviews some academic works on fake news published in Spain in the last seven years, a period in which the 2016 and 2020 US elections and the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in the ’era of disinformation’, a term that [...] Read more.
This paper reviews some academic works on fake news published in Spain in the last seven years, a period in which the 2016 and 2020 US elections and the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in the ’era of disinformation’, a term that the European Union (EU) describes as “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for profit or to deliberately mislead the public, and is likely to cause public harm”. Methodology: Some of the most relevant academic articles on fake news published from 2016 to the present were analysed. Results: In the last seven years, hoaxes and fake news have become even more sophisticated—including audiovisual materials, known as deep fakes—and constitute a political and social concern of the first order insofar as they threaten democratic life and social harmony in all countries. Conclusions: Although it is not a phenomenon specific to the media, since it has found its natural medium in social networks and the Internet, disinformation—which polarises society and fosters hatred—once again calls into question the role of journalism in the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
11 pages, 267 KiB  
Article
How Does the Public Receive Information about Vaccines during the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Nationwide Cross-Sectional Study in Spain
by Daniel Catalan-Matamoros and Andrea Langbecker
Societies 2023, 13(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13030062 - 09 Mar 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1201
Abstract
Spain has been one of the most severely impacted countries by COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the most successful preventive strategies. However, some citizens show vaccine resistance, in part due to widespread disinformation that has been disseminated since the pandemic’s start. [...] Read more.
Spain has been one of the most severely impacted countries by COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the most successful preventive strategies. However, some citizens show vaccine resistance, in part due to widespread disinformation that has been disseminated since the pandemic’s start. The objective of this study was to explore the characteristics of the Spanish population in terms of their use of traditional and social media for COVID-19 vaccine-related information. A countrywide survey was conducted in June 2022 following a descriptive cross-sectional analysis. Respondents declared that 80.4% had received the full schedule of COVID-19 vaccination, and over 60% would take the booster dosage without hesitation. The major reasons for not having the booster vaccine were possible health risks (37%), and a lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccines (29%). More than 85% of respondents closely followed the news on this topic, with the journalistic media (27%) and health authorities (26%) considered to be the most important sources for pandemic information, while social media was considered by 9% of respondents. Further collaboration between the media and health professionals, as well as campaigns to enhance vaccination uptake of the COVID-19 booster dose, might be considered in future strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
20 pages, 1779 KiB  
Article
The Politicization of COVID-19 Origin Stories: Insights from a Cross-Sectional Survey in China
by Annah Lake Zhu, Ruishan Chen, Jessica Rizzolo and Xiaodan Li
Societies 2023, 13(2), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc13020037 - 04 Feb 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2612
Abstract
The search for the origins of COVID-19 has yielded no conclusive evidence. In the face of this uncertainty, other social and political factors can influence perceptions of virus origins, which in turn can influence policy formation and global efforts to combat future pandemics. [...] Read more.
The search for the origins of COVID-19 has yielded no conclusive evidence. In the face of this uncertainty, other social and political factors can influence perceptions of virus origins, which in turn can influence policy formation and global efforts to combat future pandemics. Vastly different COVID-19 origin stories may circulate both within the same country but also between different countries. This article examines COVID-19 origins debates as they circulate in China, drawing from a 974-respondent survey conducted in mainland China. Our results show that within China there is a strong belief that COVID-19 originated outside the country, either in the United States or Europe. This contrasts with mainstream media coverage in the United State and Europe, which generally holds that the virus most likely originated in China. Given such global dissonance, moving forward with pandemic prevention reforms is challenging. Yet, even in the face of such diverse beliefs, building support for reform is still possible. As the search for COVID-19 continues, policy reform can be pursued across a plurality of domains, including wet markets, the wildlife trade, cold-chain products, and gain-of-function virology research, all in the interest of preventing the next global pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fake News Post-COVID-19)
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