The Role of the Crowd in Countering Misinformation: A Case Study of the COVID-19 Infodemic

by   Nicholas Micallef, et al.

Fact checking by professionals is viewed as a vital defense in the fight against misinformation.While fact checking is important and its impact has been significant, fact checks could have limited visibility and may not reach the intended audience, such as those deeply embedded in polarized communities. Concerned citizens (i.e., the crowd), who are users of the platforms where misinformation appears, can play a crucial role in disseminating fact-checking information and in countering the spread of misinformation. To explore if this is the case, we conduct a data-driven study of misinformation on the Twitter platform, focusing on tweets related to the COVID-19 pandemic, analyzing the spread of misinformation, professional fact checks, and the crowd response to popular misleading claims about COVID-19. In this work, we curate a dataset of false claims and statements that seek to challenge or refute them. We train a classifier to create a novel dataset of 155,468 COVID-19-related tweets, containing 33,237 false claims and 33,413 refuting arguments.Our findings show that professional fact-checking tweets have limited volume and reach. In contrast, we observe that the surge in misinformation tweets results in a quick response and a corresponding increase in tweets that refute such misinformation. More importantly, we find contrasting differences in the way the crowd refutes tweets, some tweets appear to be opinions, while others contain concrete evidence, such as a link to a reputed source. Our work provides insights into how misinformation is organically countered in social platforms by some of their users and the role they play in amplifying professional fact checks.These insights could lead to development of tools and mechanisms that can empower concerned citizens in combating misinformation. The code and data can be found in


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