WASHINGTON — Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.
That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
In addition to direct mentions of Trump, there was significant overlap between news coverage of the president and news coverage of “miracle cures” because the president was often spreading the false information during White House briefings or to his millions of Twitter followers. Trump, for example, persistently touted the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as an effective coronavirus treatment, despite scientific research showing otherwise. He also ludicrously suggested that injecting disinfectant could wipe out the virus.
Other common categories of misinformation identified in the researchers’ analysis include racist conspiracy theories, such as those placing an outsized focus on the virus originating China and promoting racist tropes about people of Chinese descent.