AI reveals how Bill Gates Covid conspiracy and other theories evolved online

The Independent - Tech 

Scientists have developed a new machine learning tool that can identify Covid-19-related conspiracy theories on social media and predict how they evolved over time, an advance which may lead to better ways for public health officials to fight misinformation online. The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, analysed anonymised Twitter data to characterise four Covid-19 conspiracy theory themes – such as one that erroneously claims the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation engineered or has malicious intent related to the pandemic. Using the AI tool's analysis of more than 1.8 million tweets that contained Covid-19 keywords, the scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US categorised the posts as misinformation or not, and provided context for each of these conspiracy theories through the first five months of the pandemic. "From this body of data, we identified subsets that matched the four conspiracy theories using pattern filtering, and hand labeled several hundred tweets in each conspiracy theory category to construct training sets," explained Dax Gerts, a computer scientist and co-author of the study from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The four major themes examined in the study were that 5G cell towers spread the virus; that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation engineered or have "malicious intent" related to Covid-19; that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered or was developed in a laboratory; and that vaccines for Covid-19, which were still in development during the study period, would be dangerous.

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