Apr 16, 2020

Hany Farid Fights Back Against Coronavirus Misinformation

From Berkeley Engineering

Fighting back against coronavirus misinformation

By Thomas Lee

Hany Farid is quite familiar with lies on the Internet. A professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and at the School of Information, he has been advising Facebook on how to spot fake news, images and videos on the social media platform.

But the misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is different from other online conspiracies in at least one important aspect.

“You can make fun of the flat Earthers and people who believe the moon landings were faked,” Farid said. “They may be harmless. But coronavirus misinformation is going to get a lot of people killed.”

Aided by a grant from Facebook, Farid is launching a major survey of people in United States and Western Europe to determine how far COVID-19 misinformation has penetrated the population. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk survey software, Farid and his researchers hope to interview “thousands” of people. Preliminary information from the survey suggests a vast majority of people believe humans deliberately created the virus, even though scientists say the pathogen occurred naturally.

Working with other researchers and social media platforms, Farid eventually wants to develop strategies on how stop misinformation about COVID-19 before it settles into people’s minds. But he faces an uphill battle as such misinformation has already proved harmful...


Hany Farid is a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and EECS. He specializes in digital forensics. 

Last updated:

June 12, 2020