Left: Cellular Antenna with tower for 5G by Steve Kazella CC-BY-SA

Researchers on the TRUTH project analyse fake news that circulates on social media, news media and messaging technologies during the pandemic. The team will be assessing the impact of deliberately misleading and inaccurate news on our behaviour and the way it aims to deliberately deceive the public about Covid-19 and government policies. The project will investigate psychological, socio-cultural and cognitive and other demographic factors involved in public engagement to shape our understanding of fake news and continuing through to help the road to recovery.

Misinformation can exacerbate information overload, generating mental health issues (Groes 2017). TRUTH draws attention to this fake news problem and the urgency to dispel as it directly threatens physical and mental health (see, for instance, https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-52731624). Furthermore, some people are refusing to comply with government guidelines, posing safety and security threats. The TRUTH project enhances public awareness of fake news via an impact route that includes a project website, (social) media work, and public engagement events. 

The project is unique in its use of three, very different, but complimentary routes of analysis. Our researchers will utilise computational analysis of social media, by collecting and archiving Covid19 related Tweets and news stories, to highlight absurdity and temporal patterns of the spread misinformation. Secondly, there will be deep psychological, narratological and linguistic analysis to interpret and understand the nature of the most effective pieces of disinformation. As part of this the team will examine concept of retrospective predictability, allowing us to understand how inaccurate information is reshaped in a subjective narrative form so it appears that the false information was correct all along.

Finally, the project will investigate of the effects of fake news via a series of mass online nQuire surveys. The surveys aim to understand the level of digital literacy, online engagement, Conspiracy Mentality and the level of participants belief in false news stories.

TRUTH project is working in partnership with Wolverhampton’s Citizen Science project that includes a collaboration with the BBC on the engagement project Novels That Shaped Our World, and the Meertens Institute and the Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands.