PRESS-NEWS.org - Press Release Distribution
FREE PRESS RELEASES DISTRIBUTION

New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media

Algorithm developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers could help public health officials combat misinformation

New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media
2021-04-19
(Press-News.org) LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 19, 2021--A new machine-learning program accurately identifies COVID-19-related conspiracy theories on social media and models how they evolved over time--a tool that could someday help public health officials combat misinformation online.

"A lot of machine-learning studies related to misinformation on social media focus on identifying different kinds of conspiracy theories," said Courtney Shelley, a postdoctoral researcher in the Information Systems and Modeling Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the study that was published last week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. "Instead, we wanted to create a more cohesive understanding of how misinformation changes as it spreads. Because people tend to believe the first message they encounter, public health officials could someday monitor which conspiracy theories are gaining traction on social media and craft factual public information campaigns to preempt widespread acceptance of falsehoods."

The study, titled "Thought I'd Share First," used publicly available, anonymized Twitter data to characterize four COVID-19 conspiracy theory themes and provide context for each through the first five months of the pandemic. The four themes the study examined were that 5G cell towers spread the virus; that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation engineered or has otherwise malicious intent related to COVID-19; that the virus was bioengineered or was developed in a laboratory; and that the COVID-19 vaccines, which were then all still in development, would be dangerous.

"We began with a dataset of approximately 1.8 million tweets that contained COVID-19 keywords or were from health-related Twitter accounts," said Dax Gerts, a computer scientist also in Los Alamos' Information Systems and Modeling Group and the study's co-author. "From this body of data, we identified subsets that matched the four conspiracy theories using pattern filtering, and hand labeled several hundred tweets in each conspiracy theory category to construct training sets."

Using the data collected for each of the four theories, the team built random forest machine-learning, or artificial intelligence (AI), models that categorized tweets as COVID-19 misinformation or not.

"This allowed us to observe the way individuals talk about these conspiracy theories on social media, and observe changes over time," said Gerts.

The study showed that misinformation tweets contain more negative sentiment when compared to factual tweets and that conspiracy theories evolve over time, incorporating details from unrelated conspiracy theories as well as real-world events.

For example, Bill Gates participated in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" in March 2020, which highlighted Gates-funded research to develop injectable invisible ink that could be used to record vaccinations. Immediately after, there was an increase in the prominence of words associated with vaccine-averse conspiracy theories suggesting the COVID-19 vaccine would secretly microchip individuals for population control.

Furthermore, the study found that a supervised learning technique could be used to automatically identify conspiracy theories, and that an unsupervised learning approach (dynamic topic modeling) could be used to explore changes in word importance among topics within each theory.

"It's important for public health officials to know how conspiracy theories are evolving and gaining traction over time," said Shelley. "If not, they run the risk of inadvertently publicizing conspiracy theories that might otherwise 'die on the vine.' So, knowing how conspiracy theories are changing and perhaps incorporating other theories or real-world events is important when strategizing how to counter them with factual public information campaigns."

INFORMATION:

Link to video: Interview with Ashlynn Daughton, an information scientist in the Information Systems and Modeling Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and co-author of the study: https://youtu.be/AssdxCBdb-k

Paper: Gerts D, Shelley C, Parikh N, Pitts T, Watson Ross C, Fairchild G, Vaquera Chavez N, Daughton A. "Thought I'd Share First" and Other Conspiracy Theory Tweets from the COVID-19 Infodemic: Exploratory Study. JMIR Public Health Surveill 2021;7(4):e26527
URL: https://publichealth.jmir.org/2021/4/e26527
DOI: 10.2196/26527

Funding: Los Alamos Laboratory Directed Research and Development fund and National Laboratory Fees Research

About Los Alamos National Laboratory (http://www.lanl.gov) Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media

ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:

Penn study finds reassuring data on common heart valve procedure, MitraClip

2021-04-19
PHILADELPHIA-- A retrospective study led by researchers from Penn Medicine found that with MitraClip for treatment of secondary mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart disease associated with problems in the left ventricle, there was no negative effect of having a slightly smaller mitral valve opening as long as there was good reduction of the mitral regurgitation. The study is published today in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions. "This data is very reassuring for physicians who place MitraClips in patients with secondary mitral regurgitation. It demonstrates that the benefits of MR reduction in patients with heart failure were maintained even when mild-to-moderate mitral stenosis, which can be caused by a narrowing of the ...

Addressing and integrating social determinants of health effective in reducing blood pressure in pat

Addressing and integrating social determinants of health effective in reducing blood pressure in pat
2021-04-19
While cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death globally, new research led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Moi University School of Medicine (Kenya) found that addressing and incorporating social determinants of health (such as poverty and social isolation) in the clinical management of blood pressure in Kenya can improve outcomes for patients with diabetes or hypertension. The study -- recently published online in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology - found that after one year, patients who received a multi-component intervention that combined community microfinance groups with group medical visits (where patients with similar medical conditions met together with a clinician and community health worker) ...

Research inside hill slopes could help wildfire and drought prediction

2021-04-19
A first-of-its-kind study led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that rock weathering and water storage appear to follow a similar pattern across undulating landscapes where hills rise and fall for miles. The findings are important because they suggest that these patterns could improve predictions of wildfire and landslide risk and how droughts will affect the landscape, since weathering and water storage influence how water and nutrients flow throughout landscapes. "There's a lot of momentum to do this work right now," said study co-author Daniella Rempe, an assistant professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences Department of Geological Sciences. "This kind of data, across large scales, is what is needed to inform next-generation models of land-surface processes." The ...

New algorithm uses online learning for massive cell data sets

2021-04-19
The fact that the human body is made up of cells is a basic, well-understood concept. Yet amazingly, scientists are still trying to determine the various types of cells that make up our organs and contribute to our health. A relatively recent technique called single-cell sequencing is enabling researchers to recognize and categorize cell types by characteristics such as which genes they express. But this type of research generates enormous amounts of data, with datasets of hundreds of thousands to millions of cells. A new algorithm developed by Joshua Welch, Ph.D., of the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, Ph.D. candidate Chao Gao and their team uses online learning, greatly speeding up this process and providing a way for researchers ...

Light up your mind: A novel light-based treatment for neurodegenerative diseases

Light up your mind: A novel light-based treatment for neurodegenerative diseases
2021-04-19
A lot about the human brain and its intricacies continue to remain a mystery. With the advancement of neurobiology, the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases (ND) has been uncovered to a certain extent along with molecular targets around which current therapies revolve. However, while the current treatments offer temporary symptomatic relief and slow down the course of the disease, they do not completely cure the condition and are often accompanied by a myriad of side effects that can impair normal daily functions of the patient. Light stimulation has been proposed as a promising therapeutic alternative for treating various ND like ...

The auditory system tracks moving sounds

The auditory system tracks moving sounds
2021-04-19
The brain's auditory system tracks the speed and location of moving sounds in the same way the visual system tracks moving objects. The study recently published in eNeuro lays the groundwork for more detailed research on how humans hear in dynamic environments. People who use hearing aids have trouble discriminating sounds in busy environments. Understanding if and how the auditory system tracks moving sounds is vital to improving hearing aid technology. Prior research utilizing eye movements to gauge whether the brain is following the trajectory of a moving sound indicates it cannot. A new study from García-Uceda Calvo et al. instead used head movements, a more accurate measure of sound tracking. The team analyzed head movements of hearing ...

Novel drug regenerates erectile nerves damaged by prostate surgery

Novel drug regenerates erectile nerves damaged by prostate surgery
2021-04-19
April 19, 2021--(BRONX, NY)--Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have developed a topical drug that regenerates and restores the function of erectile nerves damaged by radical prostatectomy, the most common treatment for localized prostate cancer. The drug was tested in rats, and the findings were published online today in JCI Insight. "Erectile dysfunction (ED) after radical prostatectomy has a major impact on the lives of many patients and their partners," said study co-leader David J. Sharp, Ph.D., professor of physiology & biophysics and of ophthalmology and visual sciences and professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience at Einstein. "Since rats are reliable animal models in urologic research, our drug offers real hope of normal sexual ...

Once-a-week insulin treatment could be game-changing for patients with diabetes

Once-a-week insulin treatment could be game-changing for patients with diabetes
2021-04-19
DALLAS - April 19, 2021 - Treating people with Type 2 diabetes with a new once-a-week injectable insulin therapy proved to be safe and as effective as daily insulin injections, according to the results of two international clinical trials published online today in Diabetes Care. The studies suggest that the once-weekly treatment could provide a convenient alternative to the burden of daily insulin shots for diabetes patients. Starting and maintaining insulin treatment remain a challenge for millions of patients worldwide with Type 2 diabetes. Fear of injections and the inconvenience and burden of injectable therapy contribute to the barriers against insulin therapy initiation and adherence. The effectiveness and safety of ongoing insulin treatment are also highly dependent ...

GPS data reveal possible earthquake, tsunami hazard in northwestern colombia

2021-04-19
Data from a GPS network in Colombia have revealed a shallow and fully locked part on the Caribbean subduction zone in the country that suggests a possible large earthquake and tsunami risk for the northwest region. The locked patch south of Cartagena city is capable of generating a magnitude 8.0 earthquake every 600 years, said Sindy Lizarazo of Nagoya University in Japan, who presented the study at the Seismological Society of America (SSA)'s 2021 Annual Meeting. Colombia lies in the middle of a complex tectonic zone, where the Caribbean, Nazca and South American tectonic plates and other smaller tectonic blocks converge. The Caribbean plate ...

Can magnitude 4 earthquake rates be used to forecast large earthquake events?

2021-04-19
Boston College seismologist John Ebel and his colleagues have noted a pattern for some large California earthquakes: magnitude 4 or larger earthquakes occur at a higher rate along a fault in the two decades or more prior to a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake on the fault. The findings prompted Ebel in 2017 to suggest a prospective test. He looked for the California faults that had magnitude 4 or larger earthquakes occurring at a rate higher than 0.5 earthquakes per year from 1997 to 2016. If the pattern holds, the next magnitude 6.7 earthquakes in California are most likely to ...

LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:

Scientists model 'true prevalence' of COVID-19 throughout pandemic

New breakthrough to help immune systems in the fight against cancer

Through the thin-film glass, researchers spot a new liquid phase

Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring

Brain's 'memory center' needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights

Safety of second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after first-dose allergic reactions

Changes in disparities in access to care, health after Medicare eligibility

Use of high-risk medications among lonely older adults

65+ and lonely? Don't talk to your doctor about another prescription

Exosome formulation developed to deliver antibodies for choroidal neovascularization therapy

Second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose found safe following allergic reactions to first dose

Plant root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots

Rare inherited variants in previously unsuspected genes may confer significant risk for autism

International experts call for a unified public health response to NAFLD and NASH epidemic

International collaboration of scientists rewrite the rulebook of flowering plant genetics

Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest

Misplaced trust: When trust in science fosters pseudoscience

Two types of blood pressure meds prevent heart events equally, but side effects differ

New statement provides path to include ethnicity, ancestry, race in genomic research

Among effective antihypertensive drugs, less popular choice is slightly safer

Juicy past of favorite Okinawan fruit revealed

Anticipate a resurgence of respiratory viruses in young children

Anxiety, depression, burnout rising as college students prepare to return to campus

Goal-setting and positive parent-child relationships reduce risk of youth vaping

New research identifies cancer types with little survival improvements in adolescents and young adul

Oncotarget: Replication-stress sensitivity in breast cancer cells

Oncotarget: TERT and its binding protein: overexpression of GABPA/B in gliomas

Development of a novel technology to check body temperature with smartphone camera

The mechanics of puncture finally explained

Extreme heat, dry summers main cause of tree death in Colorado's subalpine forests

[Press-News.org] New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media
Algorithm developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers could help public health officials combat misinformation