Know It to Defeat It: Exploring Health Rumor Characteristics and Debunking Efforts on Chinese Social Media during COVID-19 Crisis

Authors

  • Wenjie Yang The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Sitong Wang Columbia University
  • Zhenhui Peng The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Chuhan Shi The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Xiaojuan Ma The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Diyi Yang Georgia Institute of Technology

Keywords:

Credibility of online content, Organizational and group behavior mediated by social media; interpersonal communication mediated by social media

Abstract

Health-related rumors being spread online during a public crisis may pose a serious threat to people's well-being. Existing crisis informatics research lacks in-depth insights into the characteristics of health rumors and the efforts to debunk them on social media in a pandemic. To fill this gap, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of four months of rumor-related online discussion during COVID-19 on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site. Results suggest that the dread (cause fear) type of health rumors provoked significantly more discussions and lasted longer than the wish (raise hope) type. We further explore how four kinds of social media users (i.e., government, media, organization, and individual) combat health rumors, and identify their preferred way of sharing the debunking information and the key rhetoric strategies used in the process. We examine the relationship between debunking and rumor discussions using a Granger causality approach, and show the efficacy of debunking in suppressing rumor discussions, which is time-sensitive and varies according to rumor type and debunker. Our results can provide insights into crisis informatics and risk management on social media in pandemic settings.

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Published

2022-05-31

How to Cite

Yang, W., Wang, S., Peng, Z., Shi, C., Ma, X., & Yang, D. (2022). Know It to Defeat It: Exploring Health Rumor Characteristics and Debunking Efforts on Chinese Social Media during COVID-19 Crisis. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 1157-1168. Retrieved from https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/19366