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Older Ontarians most involved in sharing COVID-19 misinformation online: report

Almost six percent of Ontarians online are spreading COVID-19 misinformation

Ontarians between the ages of 55 and 64 are the group most involved in spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic online.

A neww report from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which represents the province’s doctors, says almost six percent of Ontarians online are spreading COVID-19 misinformation and that the vast majority of them are older men and women.

Interestingly, the report finds that men in this age group who engage in spreading misinformation online tend to talk about the government using the virus to further its own interests.

Women who do so tend to talk about variants and the government as the source of COVID-19 and why the vaccine should be feared.

“It’s not clear why this age group now is responsible for so much misinformation on social media, but it is concerning, given that many of them are now eligible for COVID vaccines,” the association notes.

Further, the report outlines that many of Ontario’s COVID-hoax theorists have been getting information from right-leaning blogs focused on U.S. politics. For instance, 26 percent of misinformation came from one website.

The association outlines that social media misinformation about COVID-19 is also high among men between the ages of 45 and 54.

“This new data demonstrates this ongoing issue of misinformation needs to be addressed in every community and demographic group,” said OMA president Dr. Samantha Hill, in a statement.

“Ontario’s doctors have been combatting COVID misinformation throughout the pandemic, and these new insights make us even more committed to providing evidence-based facts to stamp down the misinformation on social media.”

The data for this report was collected using an artificial intelligence methodology to build a representative sample of Ontarians from publicly available social media between March 24, 2020 and March 24, 2021.

Image credit: Flickr (Mark Burr)

Source: Ontario Medical Association

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