Experts have compiled a list of fakes and rumors about covid that have been spreading since the beginning of the pandemic, measured the change in popularity, and passed the list to Yandex.Q analysts. They looked in Yandex search, which rumors people most often try to check, which myths and ideas about health are the most stable, and which people are reposting, but they rather do not believe them.
Then a list of all the rumors about the covid and searches for them were shared with the community at Q, the Alliance of Russian-Speaking Fact Checkers. Independent fact-checkers prepared an analysis of rumors, and Yandex learned how to check these facts in Search – now, if a user enters a request that clearly contains a myth, he immediately sees a refutation.
In total, the investigators collected 244 fakes related to the coronavirus. Since January 2020, stories from this corpus have been played on social networks more than 6 million times. This is just the tip of the iceberg: fakes are most actively spread in personal communication, for example, in mailing lists in instant messengers.
The most popular topic of fakes and rumors is the harm of vaccines (for example, the idea that vaccination can lead to infertility), about 39% of all recorded posts and reposts are devoted to it. In second place are pseudo-medical rumors (ginger, vodka inhalations and so on help with coronavirus), they are found in 23% of posts about fakes.
The most popular fake on social networks for the entire period is the story of the non-existent Russian doctor Yura, who allegedly worked in Wuhan and knows the coronavirus itself and how to deal with it.
There are also several very popular stories about Russians who report something from abroad: for example, “Polina’s letter” from Italy and the appeal of Dr. Kolosov, who also said that he was working in Italy. It seems that “your man abroad” enjoys special authority among the Russians.
If the most popular fake in social networks is the story about Yura from Wuhan, then in terms of the number of queries in Yandex search, rumors that Arbidol and azithromycin are effective against coronavirus are winning.
Some fakes have proven to be especially popular in certain cities. For example, in Kazan, where a tough mask regime was in effect, Yandex users were more likely than the average in large cities to be interested in a fake about nano-worms that live in masks. In Sochi, there was an increased interest in the fake that the coronavirus is somehow connected with the bacterium Cynthia, allegedly living in the sea. In Eastern Siberia and the Far East, a fake was spread about the Chinese who, with the help of “white powder”, infect people with the coronavirus.
The most tenacious fakes are associated with vaccination, interest in them has been preserved almost since the beginning of the spread of coronavirus in Russia. The rest of the fakes are characterized by sharp ups and downs: for example, interest in folk remedies and pseudo-medical advice was high only right before and during the first and second waves of coronavirus.
It seems that the popularity of fakes about the dangers of vaccinations against coronavirus is due to the fact that they have fallen on well-developed soil: various ideas about the dangers of different vaccinations have existed in Russia for a very long time – in the context of the coronavirus, they were simply updated and slightly changed their content.
Fakes, the reliability of which Yandex users checked most often, are related to pressing questions: is it not dangerous to receive parcels from China? can they be fired for refusing to vaccinate? Is it true that vaccinations cause infertility and other terrible diseases? – etc.
Myths that were checked most often
Top 10 fakes in terms of the share of requests containing constructs like true or fake, whether true, yes or no.
- Parcels from China can be dangerous
- For refusing to be vaccinated, people can be fired
- Vaccines cause infertility and other diseases
- Coronavirus is a common flu
- Ginger should be consumed to aid symptoms
- It is necessary to take “Arbidol”
- Bananas are infected with coronavirus
- You need to drink garlic water
- The vaccine contains harmful metals
- You need to breathe vodka vapors to alleviate symptoms