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Spread of Misinformation About Face Masks and COVID-19 by Automated Software on Facebook

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: April 15, 2021.

Published Online: June 7, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.2498

Corresponding Author: John W. Ayers, PhD MA; #333 CRSF 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 (ayers.john.w@gmail.com).

Author Contributions: Drs Ayers and Broniatowski had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Ayers, Chu, Zhu, Leas, Smith, Broniatowski.

Drafting of the manuscript: Ayers, Chu, Zhu, Leas, Smith, Broniatowski.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Chu, Leas, Broniatowski.

Obtained funding: Smith.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Chu, Smith, Dredze, Broniatowski.

Supervision: Smith, Dredze, Broniatowski.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Ayers reported owning equity in Directing Medicine, Health Watcher, and Good Analytics outside the submitted work. Dr Leas reported receiving consulting fees from Health Watcher and Good Analytics for similar work outside the context of these analyses. Dr Smith reported an endowment from the John and Mary Tu Foundation Endowment and grants from the National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study and consulting fees from FluxErgy, Bayer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, and Linear Therapies outside the submitted work. Dr Dredze reported personal fees from Bloomberg LP and Good Analytics outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, National Institutes of Health grant AI036214, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to the George Washington University Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics, and The John and Mary Tu Foundation.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding organizations had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Data Sharing Statement: The data used in the study are public in nature and are available from CrowdTangle. CrowdTangle prohibits providing raw data to anyone outside of a CrowdTangle user’s account. Anyone with a CrowdTangle account may access these corresponding data. Researchers may request CrowdTangle access at https://help.crowdtangle.com/en/articles/4302208-crowdtangle-for-academics-and-researchers.

Additional Contributions: We appreciate discussions and editing with Benjamin M. Althouse, PhD, ScM (Gates Foundation), Alicia Nobles, PhD (University of California, San Diego) and Christopher Longhurst MD (University of California San Diego). They were not compensated for their contributions.

References
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Broniatowski  DA , Jamison  AM , Qi  S ,  et al.  Weaponized health communication: Twitter bots and Russian trolls amplify the vaccine debate.   Am J Public Health. 2018;108(10):1378-1384. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304567PubMedGoogle Scholar
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Giglietto  F., , Righetti  N., , Rossi  L., , & Marino  G.,   It takes a village to manipulate the media: coordinated link sharing behavior during 2018 and 2019 Italian elections.   Information, Communication & Society. 2020;23(6):867-891. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2020.1739732Google Scholar
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Bundgaard  H , Bundgaard  JS , Raaschou-Pederson  DET ,  et al.  Effectiveness of adding a mask recommendation to other public health measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in Danish mask wearers: a randomized controlled trial.   Ann Intern Med. 2021;174(3):335-343. doi:10.7326/M20-6817PubMedGoogle Scholar
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Altmetric. Article detail page for effectiveness of adding a mask recommendation to other public health measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in Danish mask wearers. Accessed December 17, 2020. https://www.altmetric.com/details.php?domain=www.acpjournals.org&citation_id=94531651
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Allem  JP , Ferrara  E .  Could social bots pose a threat to public health?   Am J Public Health. 2018;108(8):1005-1006. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304512PubMedGoogle Scholar
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