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Title: Understanding the Use of Images to Spread COVID-19 Misinformation on Twitter
While COVID-19 text misinformation has already been investigated by various scholars, fewer research efforts have been devoted to characterizing and understanding COVID-19 misinformation that is carried out through visuals like photographs and memes. In this paper, we present a mixed-method analysis of image-based COVID-19 misinformation in 2020 on Twitter. We deploy a computational pipeline to identify COVID-19 related tweets, download the images contained in them, and group together visually similar images. We then develop a codebook to characterize COVID-19 misinformation and manually label images as misinformation or not. Finally, we perform a quantitative analysis of tweets containing COVID-19 misinformation images. We identify five types of COVID-19 misinformation, from a wrong understanding of the threat severity of COVID-19 to the promotion of fake cures and conspiracy theories. We also find that tweets containing COVID-19 misinformation images do not receive more interactions than baseline tweets with random images posted by the same set of users. As for temporal properties, COVID-19 misinformation images are shared for longer periods of time than non-misinformation ones, as well as have longer burst times. %\ywi added "have'' %\ywFor RQ2, we compare non-misinformation images instead of random images, and so it is not a direct comparison. When looking at the users sharing COVID-19 misinformation images on Twitter from the perspective of their political leanings, we find that pro-Democrat and pro-Republican users share a similar amount of tweets containing misleading or false COVID-19 images. However, the types of images that they share are different: while pro-Democrat users focus on misleading claims about the Trump administration's response to the pandemic, as well as often sharing manipulated images intended as satire, pro-Republican users often promote hydroxychloroquine, an ineffective medicine against COVID-19, as well as conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus. Our analysis sets a basis for better understanding COVID-19 misinformation images on social media and the nuances in effectively moderate them.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
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1 to 32
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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