Global Infodemiology of COVID-19: Focus on Google web searches and Instagram hashtags
Several studies have been conducted using 'infodemiological' methods in COVID-19 research, but studies focusing to examine the extent of infodemic monikers (misinformation) on the internet is very limited.
We aimed to investigate the internet search behavior related to COVID-19 and the extent of infodemic monikers circulating in Google and Instagram during the pandemic period in the world.
Using Google Trends and Instagram hashtags (#), we explored the internet search activities and behaviors related to COVID-19 pandemic all over the world from February 20, 2020, to May 06, 2020. Briefly, we investigated the names used to identify the virus, health and risk perception, life during the lockdown, and also information related to the adoption of infodemic monikers related to COVID-19. We computed the average peak volume (APC) with a 95% confidence interval (CI) during the study period.
The top five COVID-19 related terms used in Google searches were "coronavirus", "corona", "COVID", "virus", "corona virus", and "COVID-19". Countries with a higher number of COVID-19 cases have greater Google searches queries related to COVID-19. "coronavirus ozone", "coronavirus laboratory", "coronavirus 5G", "coronavirus conspiracy" and "coronavirus bill gates" are widely circulated infodemic monikers on the internet. Searches related to 'tips and cures' to COVID-19 spiked when the US president suggested an unproven drug as a 'miracle cure' and suggested injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19. Around two-thirds (66.1%) of the Instagram users use "COVID-19", and "coronavirus" hashtags to disperse the information related to COVID-19.
Globally, there is a growing interest in COVID-19 and a large number of infodemic monikers are circulating on the internet. Therefore, mass media regulators and health organizers should be vigilant to diminish the infodemic monikers dispersing on the internet and also should take serious actions against those spreading misinformation in social media.
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