Covid-19 Infodemic and Fake News in Georgian Social Media

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Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
The mankind has been battling fake news, misinformation and propaganda for years, however, this problem has become more threatening and persistent with the advancement of technologies. It is well-known, that spreading of any fake news needs a precondition – an event, which causes the intensity of its spread in a specific time. Recently, this precondition has become COVID-19 pandemic, about which an overabundance of information can be observed in traditional and new media. Thus, it is interesting and vital to research what place the fake news has held in information flow and what influence it has had on a society in a crisis. The significance of our research lies in the fact that it is conducted during the pandemic and examines the topics that are most often subjected to fraud. Scientific research about the origin of fake news and the consequences of its spread will help us share correct and verified information and aid the fight against fake news. The aim of this research is to demonstrate the causes and manipulators of the fake news, which was spread during COVID-19. Also to find out mainly what type of information is faked and what is the reason behind this (the ways of treating COVID-19, faked statistics, where the virus comes from, anti-vax movement, etc.). The study, in the future, will make a consequential contribution to combating misinformation and preventing its negative effects. In the research process, we observed the information about the corona virus published on the social media, particularly on Facebook, monitored the original sources of the information, separated the falsified information from the main information flow and identified the prime manipulators. The study was conducted over a one year period, from March 2020 to March 2021. On the first stage of the research, these hypotheses were developed: H1: During infodemic, the sharing of fake news and misleading of media users increases. H2: The information, which was spread on social media about COVID-19 is harmful and alarming, as it can have damaging influence on an individual‟s health. The research was based on the theory of Uses and Gratification. The following research questions were formed by the analysis of the theoretical framework: RQ1: What is the comparative share of Covid-19 information on the websites, that are regarded as original sources, during the infodemic? RQ2: What type of fake news was shared on social media about COVID-19? RQ3: Which specific manipulators are included in fake news about the spread of COVID-19? RQ4: What kind of responses and feedbacks does the fake news have (likes and shares)? RQ5: what were the impacts and results of the spread of fake news about COVID- 19? Quantitative and qualitative content analysis were used in the research, as well as a form of qualitative research - in-depth interviews conducted with media experts, psychologists and physicians. In this paper the fake news is structured by types and contents and the reasons for the origin of fake news and its influence on social media users is analyzed.
Covid-19, Disinfodemic, Fake News, Social Media