COVID-19 Rumours in Historical Context

About the project

This project examined the pandemic of rumour and of disinformation that has accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. It took a historical perspective, analysing how and why similar rumours have spread in the past, how previous governments have responded to them, and evaluating how successful these efforts were. The study tracked the language of rumours (via international English language Twitter data) relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination programme, and compared them to historical precedents.

Key policy recommendations include:

  • Policy makers need a wider range of data and new tools at their disposal to better understand mis- and disinformation and its impacts.
  • Pre-emptive counter disinformation campaigns, building on historical trends, may be able to curb the deleterious effects of rumour at a time of crisis.
  • Solutions to mis/disinformation will need to be multifaceted (range from e.g., tighter controls on the operations of social media to longer term education in Schools as to how to recognise disinformation and understanding in the info-sphere and how to navigate it).

Principal Investigator

Professor Joanne Fox
(School of Advanced Study)

Policy Brief

Guidance, Messaging and Behaviour Change


communication conspiracy data digital disinformation misinformation