The Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Arkansas attorney general's office are partnering to combat misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We call it an 'infodemic' which is in many ways more dangerous than COVID-19," said Nitin Agarwal, an Arkansas Research Alliance fellow and distinguished professor of information science at UA Little Rock. "The cases of misinformation about the virus are rising exponentially from the dark corners of the web."
Agarwal is also the director of COSMOS. He and his team study social media and online behavior to combat threats to social good, ranging from safeguarding elections to countering terrorism.
COSMOS and the attorney general's office have developed a website that aims to help people identify, understand, and report instances of misinformation.
"Fake cures. Medical equipment scams. Anti-foreign sentiment. Basically, anything designed to sow division and unravel the fabric of our society" is what the public can expect, Agarwal said. "This environment of high-anxiety makes it easy for us to fall prey to fake news."
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in the release, "This pandemic has created an unprecedented level of uncertainty and I will not tolerate bad actors seeking to leverage this crisis to fill their pocketbooks.
"The goal with this partnership is to make sure we are quickly identifying fake websites that are spreading misinformation with the purpose of stealing from Arkansans."