...Since President Trump announced his COVID-19 diagnosis to his millions of followers on social media, he's used his platforms to make dubious claims about the disease, like that it's less dangerous than the flu.
The president is no stranger to spreading false information on social media, but his approach of providing his own thoughts on COVID-19 have opened the doors to mis-and-disinformaton.
"The president has clearly attempted to shape the public health messaging to fit his theory of the case, rather than going to the scientists at the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], at the [National Institutes of Health], understanding the problem, and then shaping his messaging to reflect that science," said Mark Lukasiewicz, Dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication At Hofstra University.
"You have the president saying one thing on Twitter. Then you have the chief of staff of the White House saying something else. You have people throughout the U.S. government saying something completely different. And what that results in is, you know, apart from just chaos, is the rise of conspiracy theory and the rise of dis-and-misinformation," said Sam Woolley, Program Director of Propaganda Research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas in Austin.
Even before President Trump's diagnosis, he was seen as a superspreader of false COVID info -- suggesting that most cases are harmless, that children are virtually immune and that the virus would someday just disappear.
Cornell University researchers analyzed 38 million English-language articles about the pandemic, and found President Trump was responsible for more than a third of the "misinformation conversation."
"People like Donald Trump are able to use social media in such a fashion, and then benefit also from the numbers of bots and sock puppets and fake traffic that are there in such a way that they create the illusion of consensus around these ideas that they're bringing up," Woolley said....