NewsGuard releases new report to government online harms watchdogs and the WHO detailing new COVID-19 myths being spread by platforms — including that soccer star Christian Eriksen collapsed after receiving vaccine
NewsGuard coverage highlights TikTok videos purporting to show COVID shot turning people into zombies; Facebook groups touting CDC-WHO ‘corruption’ and Bill Gates conspiracies
(June 30, 2021, London and New York) NewsGuard has found that COVID-19 myths continue to be spread and promoted on leading global digital platforms, despite their claims that they have addressed the problem. At the request of officials from countries around the world and the World Health Organization, NewsGuard issues regular reports to governments and the WHO.
The WHO has termed rampant misinformation and hoaxes on the social media platforms an “infodemic,” resulting in many people being exposed to false content relating to the virus and its treatments, including false claims about the dangers of the vaccine. Hesitancy to take the vaccine is endangering the path to herd immunity in many countries.
NewsGuard has been summarizing the new myths on the platforms in a series of reports also requested by regulators of the digital platforms in the UK, US, Germany, France and Italy, as well as legislators on Capitol Hill.
Several platforms, for example, claimed that Inter Milan and Danish national team soccer star Christian Eriksen received a COVID-19 vaccine before an on-field collapse during a game against Finland on June 12, when in fact he was not vaccinated and did not have COVID-19.
- Facebook groups claiming unsubstantiated “corruption” between the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control in the US.
- TikTok videos with more than 30 million views purporting that the COVID shot turns people into zombies.
- Instagram accounts such as @1986theact, the popular account of an antivax misinformation film by Andrew Wakefield, promoting the baseless theory that vaccines cause autism.
The NewsGuard Facebook report also identifies seven Facebook pages and private Facebook groups with a total of 325,700 members or followers that actively promote misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. For example, the “Informed Consent Action Network” with 50,100 followers, is associated with icandecide.org, an anti-vaccine nonprofit that NewsGuard has rated red with a trust rating of 12.5/100.
NewsGuard’s reports for the WHO and governments are produced using two proprietary datasets, both of which are available to be licensed for research and other purposes:
- NewsGuard’s Misinformation Fingerprints, a machine-readable catalog of the top current misinformation narratives designed for use by artificial intelligence tools to identify content matching specific false claims.
- NewsGuard’s News Website Reliability Ratings, which consists of credibility ratings for over 6,300 news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement with news in the UK, US, France, Germany and Italy.
To read the new reports, and see the accompanying videos and screenshots, click here.
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites. NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. NewsGuard products include NewsGuard, HealthGuard, and BrandGuard, which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety, and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top hoaxes.
NewsGuard rates each site based on nine apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, and whether it avoids deceptive headlines. It awards weighted points for each criterion and sums them up; a score of less than 60 earns a “Red” rating, while 60 and above earns a “Green” rating, which indicates it is generally reliable.
NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels can be licensed by internet service providers, browsers, news aggregators, education companies, and social media and search platforms in order to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. Consumers can access these ratings by purchasing a subscription to NewsGuard, which costs $2.95/month and includes access to NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and its mobile app for iOS and Android. The extension is available for free on Microsoft’s Edge browser through a license agreement with Microsoft, and NewsGuard’s ratings can also be accessed free through the Edge mobile browser. Hundreds of public libraries globally receive free access to use NewsGuard’s browser extension on their public-access computers to give their patrons more context for the news they encounter online. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.