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Coronavirus: Almost half of adults exposed to fake COVID-19 news | UK News

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Nearly half of all UK adults have been exposed to fake news online about the ongoing coronavirus crisis, according to Ofcom.

According to the regulator, just over a third of adults, 35%, have seen the false claim that drinking more water can help flush out the virus.

Around a quarter, 24%, saw that gargling salt water or avoiding cold food and drink can stop COVID-19 – another piece of misinformation.



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The misinformation outbreak

Although 55% of people said they are ignoring false claims made about the virus, with around 15% of those using fact-checking tips to research the authenticity of the claims they see – one in 14 people did admit to sharing misinformation.

Of those surveyed, 40% said they found it difficult to determine what was and was not fake news about the coronavirus – a figure which is higher among 18 to 24-year-olds, at around 52%.

The survey found that young people (18 to 24-year-olds) tended to follow official advice less stringently than others, with only 43% saying they followed the government’s hand washing advice closely.

The study of 2,000 people also found that almost all adults online in the UK are getting news and information about the virus every day, with a quarter getting information 20 or more times a day.

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The figures come as senior MPs and other organisations demand better accountability of distributers of coronavirus disinformation.

Social media platforms and other internet services have taken some steps to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation, such as promoting official advice and banning some types of content, but there have been calls for more action.

On Wednesday Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden spoke with leading social media companies including Twitter, Google and Facebook, which owns WhatsApp.

Mr Dowden said he welcomed the progress being made on misinformation, adding that the firms agreed to work together, at speed, to counter fake news.

Most people turn to news organisations or official government advice to get their information, but around 15% use WhatsApp or Facebook messenger for news.

On Thursday, the Government said it would extend its information service on WhatsApp to try and tackle misinformation about the virus.

The free chatbot service has sent around a million messages since its launch in March, but now the service will add new content that will include advice for those people who are high-risk individuals, and more details on how to practice social distancing. Users can also find information about Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research, said: “With so much false information circulating online, it’s never been more important that people can cut through the confusion and find accurate, trustworthy and credible sources of news and advice.”

Ofcom said it has created a set of resources on its websites, including tips on how to find reliable content and identify fact from fiction.

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