Can Predominant Credible Information Suppress Misinformation in Crises? Empirical Studies of Tweets Related to Prevention Measures during COVID-19

Yan Wang, Shangde Gao, Wenyu Gao

During COVID-19, misinformation on social media affects the adoption of appropriate prevention behaviors. It is urgent to suppress the misinformation to prevent negative public health consequences. Although an array of studies has proposed misinformation suppression strategies, few have investigated the role of predominant credible information during crises. None has examined its effect quantitatively using longitudinal social media data. Therefore, this research investigates the temporal correlations between credible information and misinformation, and whether predominant credible information can suppress misinformation for two prevention measures (i.e. topics), i.e. wearing masks and social distancing using tweets collected from February 15 to June 30, 2020. We trained Support Vector Machine classifiers to retrieve relevant tweets and classify tweets containing credible information and misinformation for each topic. Based on cross-correlation analyses of credible and misinformation time series for both topics, we find that the previously predominant credible information can lead to the decrease of misinformation (i.e. suppression) with a time lag. The research findings provide empirical evidence for suppressing misinformation with credible information in complex online environments and suggest practical strategies for future information management during crises and emergencies.

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