April 1st, 2021

// COVID myth spreaders not who you might think, new OMA research shows

COVID myth spreaders not who you might think, new OMA research shows

TORONTO, March 31, 2021 /CNW/ - Almost six per cent of Ontarians online are spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vast majority of them are older men and women, according to exclusive new research conducted on behalf of the Ontario Medical Association.

Ontarians ages 55-64 are the most engaged online across all COVID hoax topics, with men (52 per cent) and women (48 per cent) almost equally involved. While men who engage in spreading misinformation online tend to talk about government using COVID to further its own interests, women who do so are focused on variants and government as the source of COVID-19 and why the vaccine is to be feared. Both men and women ages 55-64 believe in the misinformation they are sharing, and are not on social media to dispel the myths.

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.

"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.  "The best antidote is to provide clear, consistently high quality, factual information. 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 research found that in many cases, Ontario's COVID-hoax theorists have been accessing right-leaning websites and blogs focused on U.S. politics. Twenty-six per cent of misinformation came from one website.

The new data was collected by Advanced Symbolic Inc., which used artificial intelligence methodology to build a representative sample of Ontarians from publicly available social media and glean insights into what people are saying about COVID.

Other findings:

  • COVID fears had been declining but are again increasing 
  • Social media misinformation about COVID is also high among men in the 45-54 age range 
  • There has been a rise in conversation about frustration over the vaccine rollout, and it coincided with the rise of concern about variants and the Third Wave. 
  • Women are more likely to engage in online conversations about the Third Wave, while men are expressing their frustration about the vaccine rollout.

"We encourage everyone to seek facts from credible sources like doctors," said OMA CEO Allan O'Dette. "It's only by separating the facts from the fiction that we will make sound decisions that will protect us, our loved ones, and our communities."

About the OMA

The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario's 43,000 plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario's health-care system.

SOURCE Ontario Medical Association


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