Fighting the COVID-19 Infodemic in Social Media: A Holistic Perspective and a Call to Arms

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Firoj Alam, Fahim Dalvi, Shaden Shaar, Nadir Durrani, Hamdy Mubarak, Alex Nikolov, Giovanni Da San Martino, Ahmed Abdelali, Hassan Sajjad, Kareem Darwish, Preslav Nakov
 
KeywordsCOVID-19, Infodemic, Disinformation, Misinformation, Fake News, Call to Arms, Crowdsourcing Annotations
 
TL;DRFighting the COVID-19 infodemic beyond factuality; combining the perspectives of journalists, fact-checkers, policymakers, government entities, social media platforms, and society; call to arms
 
AbstractWith the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned to social media to read and to share timely information including statistics, warnings, advice, and inspirational stories. Unfortunately, alongside all this useful information, there was also a new blending of medical and political misinformation and disinformation, which gave rise to the first global infodemic. While fighting this infodemic is typically thought of in terms of factuality, the problem is much broader as malicious content includes not only fake news, rumors, and conspiracy theories, but also promotion of fake cures, panic, racism, xenophobia, and mistrust in the authorities, among others. This is a complex problem that needs a holistic approach combining the perspectives of journalists, fact-checkers, policymakers, government entities, social media platforms, and society as a whole. Taking them into account we define an annotation schema and detailed annotation instructions, which reflect these perspectives. We performed initial annotations using this schema, and our initial experiments demonstrated sizable improvements over the baselines. Now, we issue a call to arms to the research community and beyond to join the fight by supporting our crowdsourcing annotation efforts.

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