HomeInsightsOfcom finds that half of UK adults have been exposed to false claims about coronavirus

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Almost half of UK online adults came across false or misleading information about coronavirus (Covid-19) in the first week of the “lockdown”, Ofcom has found.

Ofcom is conducting weekly research to help understand how people are receiving and acting on information during the current pandemic. The findings from week one of the “lockdown” show that:

  • the most common piece of false information around coronavirus is the claim that drinking more water can flush out the infection (seen by 35% of online adults). This is followed by other claimed treatments, such as gargling with saltwater, or avoiding cold food and drink (both seen by 24%);
  • many people (40%) are finding it hard to know what is true or false about the virus. This rises to more than half (52%) of 18-24 year-olds;
  • virtually all people who took part in the survey said they are closely following the official advice: to practise social distancing (98%); only go outside for essential reasons (97%); and wash their hands regularly (96%);
  • almost all online adults (99%) are getting news and information about coronavirus at least once a day, while one in four (24%) are doing so 20 or more times each day. Conversely, more than one in five (22%) said they are trying to avoid news about the pandemic;
  • people are most likely to turn to the BBC’s TV, radio and online services for the latest news on the pandemic (82%), followed by other broadcasters (56%); and official sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), NHS and the Government (52%);
  • average daily news viewing across all channels was up by 92% in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Both BBC News and Sky News have also seen their viewing more than double year-on-year; and
  • public officials are the most trusted sources of news about coronavirus. Of those that use them, at least nine in ten people trust information provided by the NHS (95%), the WHO (94%), their local health services (91%), official scientists (90%), and the Government (89%). Social media and closed messaging groups were the least trusted sources of news about the pandemic (21% and 26% respectively).

Ofcom says that access to accurate, trustworthy and credible sources of news and information has never been more important. So, with the support of its Making Sense of Media Panel and Network, Ofcom has also collected a set of resources to provide people with useful tools to navigate news and information about Covid-19. To read Ofcom’s news release in full and for a link to the research, click here.