Coronavirus: who can you really trust for information?

 

CONSPIRACY theories and clashes of opinion have spread almost as fast as coronavirus it seems.

They range from coronavirus being a hoax, a plot to make US president Donald Trump look bad,  a way to rush in 5G towers, or even a ruse to distract us from a doomsday asteroid.

Those who know no one who has been personally hit by the virus question whether it even is real, while others point to drugs that already exist that can 'treat it'.

In the US, where the number of cases has exploded, there are those who vehemently oppose restrictions, claiming they infringe on their civil rights.

News that masks have been made compulsory in Melbourne, Australia's second biggest city, will no doubt further fuel that discussion.

So how much do our political views impact on the way we are receiving information about coronavirus?

And how much is our Facebook feed determining the views - and skews - of opinions bombarding us each day.

 It's an interesting question and one that is being examined in a new University of the Sunshine Coast study.

You can take part in the survey here

Where do you get most of your information on coronavirus?

This poll ended on 31 August 2020.

Current Results

Facebook

4%

Media

58%

Government sites

37%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.



The study will examine whether personal political beliefs and trust in media determine how individuals view news events such as strict lockdown measures meant to control the spread of coronavirus.

During the first national COVID lockdown, research showed voters in Australia were far less partisan in their support of the strict measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 than their American counterparts.

However, with Victoria now battling a second wave of infections and fears the rest of the nation could follow, evidence is emerging that Australians are becoming more polarised when evaluating COVID risk and government responses.



The new study will examine the role that partisanship plays in online political debate including how and why individuals share misinformation.

University of the Sunshine Coast researcher Dr Renee Barnes said the study ultimately aimed to help create more civil and productive online discussion.

"There is no doubt that online discussion is becoming more and more polarised," she said.

"But in situations like now, as Australia and the world battle this pandemic, it is very apparent that we need to understand more about why it is so difficult for people to discuss issues of vital importance in constructive ways.

"The study will provide important information about what factors lead to uncivil discussion and why particular information, and in some cases very harmful misinformation, is shared and spreads so widely."



In the first stage of the project, researchers are looking for participants to take part in a short 10-minute survey.

The results of the project will be used to develop recommendations for news media to moderate and manage more constructive online discussion.

You can take part in the survey here


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