Detection of fake news on COVID-19 on web search engines
In early January 2020, after China reported the first cases of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in the city of Wuhan, unreliable and not fully accurate information has started spreading faster than the virus itself. Alongside this pandemic, people have experienced a parallel infodemic, i.e., an overabundance of information, some of which is misleading or even harmful, which has widely spread around the globe.
Although social media are increasingly being used as the information source, web search engines, such as Google or Yahoo!, still represent a powerful and trustworthy resource for finding information on the Web. This is due to their capability to capture the largest amount of information, helping users quickly identify the most relevant, useful, although not always the most reliable, results for their search queries.
This study aims to detect potential misleading and fake contents by capturing and analysing textual information, which flow through search engines. By using a real-world dataset associated with recent COVID-19 pandemic, we first apply re-sampling techniques for class imbalance, and then we use existing machine learning algorithms for classification of not reliable news. By extracting lexical and host-based features of associated uniform resource locators (URLs) for news articles, we show that the proposed methods, so common in phishing and malicious URL detection, can improve the efficiency and performance of classifiers. Based on these findings, we suggest that the use of both textual and URL features can improve the effectiveness of fake news detection methods.
Valeria Mazzeo, Andrea Rapisarda, Giovanni Giuffrida, Detection of fake news on COVID-19 on web search engines, Frontiers in Physics (2021)