The variant of efforts avoiding strain: successful correction of a scientific discourse related to COVID-19



Dongwoo Lim, Fujio Toriumi, Mitsuo Yoshida, Mikihito Tanaka, Kunhao Yang


This study focuses on how scientifically accurate information is disseminated through social media, and how misinformation can be corrected. We have identified examples on Twitter where scientific terms that have been widely misused have been rectified and replaced by scientifically accurate terms through the interaction of users. The results show that the percentage of accurate terms (“variant” or “COVID-19 variant”) being used instead of the inaccurate terms (“strain”) on Twitter has already increased since the end of December 2020. This was about a month before the release of an official statement by the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases regarding the accurate terminology, and the use of terms on social media was faster than it was in television. Some Twitter users who quickly started using the accurate term were more likely to retweet messages sent by leading influencers on Twitter, rather than messages sent by traditional media or portal sites. However, a few Twitter users continued to use wrong terms even after March 2021, even though the use of the accurate terms was widespread. This study empirically verified that self-correction occurs even on Twitter, and also suggested that influencers with expertise can influence the direction of public opinion on social media.




Journal of Computational Social Science: