Hitchens’s Razor: Sourcing Ground Truth Amidst an Info-demic

Hitchens’s Razor: Sourcing Ground Truth Amidst an Info-demic

By Samantha Hubner | Senior Operations Specialist - Governance & Security

As information-sharing technology continues to innovate, the speed at which information is spread is only getting faster. Yet, with that speed comes unprecedented and newfound accountability; How do we ensure that the speed at which information is spread is not conflated with accuracy?

An increasingly popular topic at the crux of this issue is the ongoing coronavirus “info-demic”, as cited by the World Health Organization. Attempts to mitigate the outbreak have been plagued by various suppositions claiming everything from cure to conspiracy.

As these rumors quickly gain unsubstantiated traction, they simultaneously distract from the facts. 

Even in developing tasks for our Global Impact Study regarding the Novel Coronavirus, the team at Premise has had to be extremely vigilant about task design and messaging as we aim to better collect, understand, and analyze this information.   

The Global Impact Study aims to understand not only the penetration of prevailing narratives about the virus but also the preferences and behaviors of our Contributors in consuming information. Furthermore, we are seeking to understand how these behaviors may relate to longitudinal trends of economic impacts caused by the virus.  

Our Contributors represent a broad cross-section of the global community; they are smartphone users present in over 90 countries and literate in at least one of the 26 languages we service.

Company stakeholders across survey methodology, customer success, business development and marketing continue to collaborate to develop a suite of tasks for the Global Impact Study, released to all 90+ countries Premise is currently active in, including the United States.

Globally, 77% of our Contributors reported Facebook as a social media outlet they observed misinformation about COVID-19 being spread. The next highest reported social media outlet was YouTube, at 23.2%- less than half of the amount of the same Contributors who reported Facebook.

In some countries, that figure is even higher. For example, 92% of Filipino respondents reported seeing rumors being spread specifically on Facebook. 

It is important to note that as of January 2020, Statista ranks Facebook as the most popular social media platform worldwide based on the number of users—nearly 2.5 billion monthly, as of January. 

Since 2017, Facebook has been instituting a number of new tools to attempt to combat the spread of misinformation. Revitalized by the many instances of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, messaging platforms owned by Facebook, such as WhatsApp, are now also experimenting with similar products.

As the fight against misinformation continues, it is nonetheless critical to understand what, and where, certain narratives prevail. Nearly 40% of our global Contributors indicated that they believed the virus was a product of biological research that accidentally escaped containment, an unproven but popular rumor spread widely across online news media. 

Just under 60% of American Contributors believe that the Chinese government is underreporting the number of both confirmed cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. Given the rhetoric around the outbreak, as confirmed cases increase across the U.S., such suspicion seems to be mounting. 

With the next phase of our Global Impact Study forthcoming, we are focusing on the more nuanced economic impact of the virus, such as purchasing habits, changes in lifestyle routines, and other direct downstream effects Contributors are noticing in their community. 

In doing so, our task design must remain accountable. There is great power in collecting and sharing information, and as the famed Peter Parker principle states: with great power comes great responsibility. At Premise, we take that seriously by helping people make better decisions by providing a greater understanding of individual communities in every corner of the world. 

When organizations and governments understand more about these communities’ behavior in information consumption, they are empowered to drive their ideas forward with a localized impact, demonstrating unmatched understanding of their audience. 

Now more than ever, the value of the Premise capability is critical.


Follow along as we collect more data on COVID-19 and dive deeper into the available data at www.premise.com/COVID-19. If you’re interested in learning how Premise could help your organization get real-time insight around the globe during this challenging time email us at info@premise.com.

About Samantha Hubner

Having spent the majority of her professional career abroad, Samantha is passionate about mobilizing technology to better connect and provide for the broader global community. At Premise, Samantha leverages her knowledge of foreign relations to develop, curate and tailor data collection tasks that meet the unique project needs of clients in Governance and Security.