Researchers – from various institutions in Bangladesh, Australia, Thailand and Japan – defined a “rumor” as any unverified information that can be found to be true, fabricated or completely false after verification. “Stigma” regarding discrimination or the devaluation of a group and “conspiracy theory” was defined as beliefs about an individual or group of people working secretly to achieve malicious intent.
The researchers identified 2,311 reports related to possible Covid-19 misinformation in 25 languages from 87 countries – and of those reports, 89% were classified as gossip; 7.8% were conspiracy theories; and 3.5% were stigmas.
The study included some examples: “Poultry eggs are contaminated with coronavirus” and “Drinking bleach can kill the virus” were the rumors; “Diseasedo disease has ever come from China” was the stigma; and “is a bio-weapon funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for further sales of vaccines” was a conspiracy theory.
Most of the rumors, stigma and conspiracy theories were identified by India, the United States, China, Spain, Indonesia and Brazil, the researchers found.
The analysis showed that 24% of the reports generally related to Covid-19 disease, deaths and coronavirus transmission; 21% were related to control efforts; 19% to treatment or “cure”; 15% to the cause of the disease and the origin of the virus; 1% against violence; and 20% were considered different.
Such misinformation can lead to injury and death, the researchers in the study noted.
“Rumors can disguise themselves as credible infection prevention and control strategies and have potentially serious implications if priority is given to evidence-based guidelines. For example, a popular myth that highly concentrated alcohol consumption can disinfect the body and “to kill the virus was circulating in different parts of the world,” the researchers wrote.
“After this misinformation, about 800 people died, while 5,876 were hospitalized and 60 developed complete blindness after drinking methanol as a cure for coronavirus.”
The study had some limitations, including that the data came from the online platform available to the public – so there could be more misinformation out there.