Not only are people dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of social media, they are also dealing with the COVID-19 infodemic. Two studies this week explore Twitter to assess topics, sentiments, and misinformation on the social media platform.
In this geospatial analysis of COVID-19 misinformation on Twitter, the researchers determined that 80% of the COVID-19 incidence rate variations had a strong spatial relationship between social media activity and virus spread. In such instances, tweets downplayed the pandemic or disseminated misinformation. The researchers learned that cases of COVID-19 rose in areas immediately following the dissemination of misinformation as more resistance to prevention measures also rose. They concluded that by analyzing where, how much, and the content of Twitter conversations, researchers can predict the spread and outbreak of COVID-19.
Another study sought to understand what people communicated about COVID-19 vaccines on Twitter to better understand perceptions, concerns, and emotions as this affects the goal of reaching herd immunity. Five major themes emerged highlighting 16 different topics. The primary theme of tweets, which held constant across the duration of the study, was people’s opinions about vaccination, followed by knowledge of vaccines, vaccines as a global issue, vaccine administration, and progress on vaccine development and authorization. As vaccine development progressed so did the topics discussed on Twitter. The researchers determined that conversations were largely positive, and they believe that COVID-19 vaccine acceptance will be higher than other vaccines.