May 28, 2022

New Research Shows an Increase in Fraudulent COVID-19 Posts on Social Media

From the UC San Diego School of Medicine:

In a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Public Health and Surveillance on August 25, 2020, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found thousands of social media posts on two popular platforms — Twitter and Instagram — tied to financial scams and possible counterfeit goods specific to COVID-19 products and unapproved treatments

UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers found thousands of fake social media posts tied to COVID-19 and financial scams on Twitter and Instagram. Photo credit: Pixabay 

“We started this work with the opioid crisis and have been performing research like this for many years in order to detect illicit drug dealers,” said Timothy Mackey, PhD, associate adjunct professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “We are now using some of those same techniques in this study to identify fake COVID-19 products for sale. From March to May 2020, we have identified nearly 2,000 fraudulent postings likely tied to fake COVID-19 health products, financial scams, and other consumer risk.”

According to Mackey, the fraudulent posts came in two waves focused on unproven marketing claims for prevention or cures and fake testing kits. He said a third wave of fake pharmaceutical treatments is now materializing and will worsen when public health officials announce development of an effective vaccine or other therapeutic treatments.

Direct to Full Text Summary Article

Direct to Full Text Research Article: Big Data, Natural Language Processing, and Deep Learning to Detect and Characterize Illicit COVID-19 Product Sales: Infoveillance Study on Twitter and Instagram (via Journal of Medical Internet Research)

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