Social Media Lab Partners with WHO on New Initiative to Examine COVID-19 Fact-checking Efforts from Around the World

The initiative is part of an effort to identify best practices for tackling the COVID-19 infodemic crisis.

TORONTO — As the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also dealing with an outbreak of misleading information about the virus on social media. To help stem the rise and counter COVID-19 misinformation, researchers at the Social Media Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Management are spearheading an international effort to document and study all of the COVID-19 related fact-checking activities happening around the world in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai, co-directors of the Social Media Lab, will be developing a comprehensive public repository of fact-checking organizations around the world in an effort to identify and document best practices for tackling the COVID-19 infodemic crisis and help to inform future policy interventions. 

“COVID-19 misinformation is running rampant on social media,” said Gruzd. “If left unchecked, it can skew the conversation and encourage people to behave in ways that undermine the work of public health officials and put the public and front-line medical workers at risk.”

The initiative, “COVID-19 Infodemic, Fact-Checking and Social Media,” will be an eight-month long collaboration and will produce a report on the global state of COVID-19 fact-checking and develop tutorials and tool kits that can support grassroot groups residing in low and middle-income countries that wish to set up and run their own COVID-19 fact-checking projects. The collaboration is the first WHO-funded project at Toronto Metropolitan University.

“This timely project will help the WHO and its member countries to better understand the ecosystem around COVID-19 fact-checking around the world,” said Mai. 

This new project builds off the Social Media Lab’s existing coronavirus misinformation project, the COVID-19 Misinformation Portal, which was launched in March 2020. The Portal is designed to help the public inoculate themselves against false and misleading claims around COVID-19. The portal features a curated directory of educational resources, a COVID-19 misinformation dashboard showcasing debunked coronavirus claims from around the world, and a Twitter COVID-19 Bots dashboard that tracks and spotlights Twitter accounts that might be bots and those spreading misinformation.

The researchers are available for media interviews to discuss topics about this project and the efforts to fight COVID-19 misinformation.

About the Social Media Lab

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Social Media Lab is a multi- and interdisciplinary research laboratory at Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University. The lab studies how social media is changing the way people and organizations communicate, share information, conduct business and form communities online, and how these changes impact society. The lab’s research seeks to advance the public’s understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of social media adoption.