Many of the novel coronavirus stories getting shared the most on social media are packaged to drive fear rather than build understanding about the illness, according to NewsWhip data provided to Axios.
Why it matters: Social media greases and amplifies dramatic headlines, while more functional or nuanced information gets squashed, Axios' Neal Rothschild and Sara Fischer write.
Details: The English-language story shared the most on Facebook since the outbreak began was "Coronavirus declared global health emergency" from the BBC.
- Some of the other top-performing articles featured largely debunked claims, such as that the coronavirus came from bats and that it might have leaked from a laboratory.
- One of the biggest dangers during this outbreak is the misinformation that has been spreading about the virus, experts say.
The big picture: Interest in the coronavirus has taken off in the last two weeks.
- The number of interactions on social media stories have increased 7x.
- Since Feb. 20, Google searches have increased 8x, according to Google Trends data.
- The number of cable news mentions has increased 3x, according to the Internet Archive Television News Archive.
New research from scientists at Northeastern University suggests that contagions can spread faster in some cases due to misinformation spreading online.
- "A link between social contagions and real biological contagions are a feature of modern outbreaks because of misinformation and fake news," says Samuel Scarpino, a business professor of network science at Northeastern University College of Science.
The bottom line: "Social media presents a mixed bag," says Scarpino. "We know social media is promoting panic, and people are taking advantage of that by spreading misinformation, but it's also helping to spread good, reliable information that empowers people to make the right decisions."
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