New survey: Most Americans believe that misinformation about COVID-19 is spread on social media

Dr. Andrew Myers, director of COVID-19 care at Tampa General Hospital. Credit: Daniel Wallace/TGH

Researchers and faculty at the University of South Florida found that social media has played a major role in spreading misinformation about the pandemic despite people relying on it for COVID-19 updates, according to a nationwide opinion poll released Monday.

Many people across the country have visited various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to stay informed about the health crisis, USF researchers in Tampa have found.

According to the survey, 76 percent of Americans said that they have counted on social media at least “a little” for information about COVID-19.

But that doesn’t mean they trust the information found on social media, with only a quarter or 26 percent trusting social media as a general “source of news and information” amid the pandemic.

About 73 percent of the respondents agreed that “there is a lot of false information about COVID-19 on social media,” which more than half claimed that they’ve seen misinformation about the global pandemic online.

Yet, only 36 percent said they’ve sought to confirm the accuracy of information about the pandemic from doctors or other health care providers, according to the survey.

And many respondents opined that COVID-19 has been politicized a lot on social media sites, with three-quarters or 76 percent saying that “politics has made it harder to learn the truth” about the virus that has spread worldwide.

Meanwhile, according to the Florida Department of Health, COVID-19 infections in the state have risen to 1,658,169 as of Monday. The COVID death toll of Florida residents is at 25,446.

And Florida has the second highest cases in the nation of the new, more transmissible COVID-19 strain that first appeared in the United Kingdom – with 50 cases. California jumped to 72 cases as of Friday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency is expected to post new variant numbers later today.

The research team conducting the nationwide poll consisted of Cyber Florida, an organization established by the state to promote cybersecurity education, and the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs. The full survey can be found here.