Optimal Policies to Battle the Coronavirus “Infodemic” Among Social Media Users in Sub-Saharan Africa: Pre-analysis Plan

Optimal Policies to Battle the Coronavirus “Infodemic” Among Social Media Users in Sub-Saharan Africa: Pre-analysis Plan

By Molly Offer-Westort, Leah R. Rosenzweig, Susan Athey
October 19,2020Working Paper No. 3913

Alongside the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, an “infodemic” of myths and hoax cures is spreading over online media outlets and social media platforms. Building on the literature on combating fake news, we evaluate experimental interventions designed to decrease sharing of false COVID-19 cures. We use Facebook advertisements to recruit social media users in Kenya and Nigeria, and deliver our interventions with a Messenger chatbot, facilitating observation of treatment effects in a realistic setting. We use a contextual adaptive experimental design to target the most effective interventions, and learn and evaluate a contextual policy, improving our understanding of how to tackle harmful misinformation during an ongoing health crisis. Finally, we bring comparative data to a global problem for which the existing research has largely been limited to the U.S. and Europe. This pre-analysis plan describes the research design and outlines the key hypotheses that we will evaluate.