Avekasis, H., Shalem-Rabinovich, A., Yehezkeli, Y., & Lev-on, A. (2023). What characterize the rumors circulating on social media in Israel in the first wave of COVID-19? Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, 13(4), Article No: e202352 (Included in Emerging Sources Citation Index). 10.30935/ojcmt/1368

The outbreak of COVID-19 has transformed our daily lives, raising concerns about transmission, infection, and recovery rates. This has led to a proliferation of rumors. Online social media platforms have played a significant role in fueling the spread of these rumors. To better understand the character of rumors that circulated on social media during the initial months of the COVID-19 crisis, we collected and analyzed the content of around 100 major rumors, collected in Israel mainly from websites that track of the dissemination of rumors. We found that the majority of rumors focused on health-related issues. In addition: (1) The majority of rumors focused on ways to prevent contracting the virus or how to recover from it, with a significant emphasis on the body and health of individuals. There were significantly fewer rumors that addressed more “distant” issues, such as the origin of the virus. (2) Many rumors cited the name of a researcher or institution, either in Israel or abroad, arguably to enhance the credibility of the rumor. (3) While the number of rumors that aimed to downplay the severity of the pandemic (e.g., claims that government institutions intentionally exaggerated the threat, in order to control the population) was relatively small, it was double the number of rumors that inflated the significance of the pandemic (i.e., that it may be more severe and fatal than it appears).


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