Few Twitter users spreading most fake news: Study

Agencies
January 25, 2019

Washington, Jan 25: A small fraction of the vast Twitter user base is spreading majority of the fake news, with conservatives and older people sharing misinformation more, according to a study of over 16,000 US Twitter accounts.

The study, published in the journal Science, found that 16 of the 16,442 accounts examined tweeted out nearly 80 per cent of the misinformation masquerading as news.

About 99 per cent of the Twitter users spread virtually no fake information in the most heated part of the election year in 2016, said David Lazer, a professor at the Northeastern University in the US.

Spreading fake information "is taking place in a very seamy, but small, corner of Twitter," Lazer said.

He said misinformation "super sharers" flooded Twitter: an average of 308 pieces of fakery each between August 1 and December 6 in 2016.

It is not just few people spreading it, but few people reading it, Lazer said.

"The vast majority of people are exposed to very little fake news despite the fact that there is a concerted effort to push it into the system," he said.

The researchers found the 16,442 accounts they analysed by starting with a random pool of voter records, matching names to Twitter users and then screening out accounts that appeared to not be controlled by real people.

Their conclusions are similar to a study earlier this month that looked at the spread of false information on Facebook.

It also found that few people shared fakery, but those who did were more likely to be over 65 and conservatives.

That makes this study more believable because two groups of researchers using different social media platforms, measuring political affiliation differently and with different panels of users came to the same conclusion, said Yonchai Benkler, co-director of Harvard Law School's centre on the internet and society.

Unlike the earlier Facebook study, Lazer did not interview the people but ranked people's politics based on what they read and shared on Twitter.

The researchers used several different sources of domains for false information masquerading as news -- not individual stories but overall sites -- from lists compiled by other academics and BuzzFeed.

The team found that among people they categorised as left-leaning and centrists, fewer than five per cent shared any fake information.

Among those they determined were right-leaning, 11 per cent of accounts shared misinformation masquerading as news. For those on the extreme right, it was 21 per cent.

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Agencies
September 18,2020

London, Sept 18: Researchers have created a 90-minute high speed COVID-19 test which does not require a laboratory and can be performed in cartridges smaller than a mobile phone with high accuracy.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Microbe, revealed that the Lab-in-Cartridge rapid testing device, which can be performed at a patient's bedside, was shown to have over 94 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity,

It means that it had a high level of accuracy and produced very few false negatives and no false positives.

To perform the test, a paediatric-sized nose swab from a patient is inserted into the device, which then looks for traces of genetic material belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

A result is available within 90 minutes, compared to conventional COVID-19 testing which delivers a result in 24 hours.

"These results suggest the test, which can be performed at a patient's bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing," said study researcher Graham Cooke from the Kings College London in the UK.

According to the study, the device was used on 280 NHS staff members with suspected COVID-19, 15 patients in accident & emergency department with suspected COVID-19, and 91 hospital in-patients.

The samples from all individuals in the study were analysed on both the rapid-testing device, called the COVIDNudge test, and standard hospital laboratory equipment - and then the results compared.

The research team assessed sensitivity and specificity.

Sensitivity is a measure of how well a test gives a positive result for people who have disease, and is an indication of how likely a test will produce false negative results.

Specificity, on the other hand, is a measure of a test's ability to give a negative result for people who don't have the disease, and is an indication of the likelihood of false positive results.

The percentage of those found to be positive for COVID-19 was 18 per cent.

The results showed 67 samples tested positive on the COVID Nudge test, compared with 71 positive results against a range of standard laboratory machines, which represents the value of 94 per cent sensitivity.

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Agencies
September 12,2020

New Delhi, Sept 12: Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has directed Serum Institute of India to suspend till further orders new recruitment in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the backdrop of pharma giant AstraZeneca pausing the trials in other countries.

In an order, a copy of which has been accessed by PTI, DCGI Dr V G Somani on Friday also directed Serum Institute of India (SII) to increase the safety monitoring of the subjects already vaccinated as part of the trial, and submit the plan and report.

Somani also asked the firm to submit clearance from Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) in the UK as well as in India to obtain clearance from his office (DCGI) prior to resumption of future recruitment in the trial.

The central drug regulator DCGI had issued a show-cause notice to SII on September 9 for not informing it about AstraZeneca pausing clinical trials of the vaccine candidate in other countries and also for not submitting casualty analysis of the "reported serious adverse events".

Following which the Pune-based firm, which has partnered with the British-Swedish biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for manufacturing the Oxford vaccine candidate, on Thursday said it is pausing the clinical trials in India.

Earlier this week, AstraZeneca said it had paused the trials because of 'an unexplained illness' in a participant in the study.

"We are reviewing the situation and pausing India trials till AstraZeneca restarts the trials," SII said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the DCGI's order issued on Friday, the SII in its reply stated that DSMB has noted no safety concerns from the Indian study (part 1-phase-2 study) with the first dose and seven days post vaccination safety data.

In its reply, SII also stated that DSMB further recommended "to pause further enrolment into the study until ongoing investigations of SAE reported in the UK study is completed and the sponsor and the UK DSMB are satisfied that it doesn't pose any safety concerns".

"In the view of the above, I Dr V G Somani, Drugs Controller General of India, Central Licensing Authority, after careful examination of your reply and the recommendations of the DSMB in India, in exercise of the powers vested under Rule 30 of the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019, direct to you suspend any new recruitment in the phase 2 and 3 clinical trial till further orders," the order read.

"Increase the safety monitoring of the subjects already vaccinated with the vaccine under trial and submit the plan and report," the order further stated.

On August 2, the DCGI had granted permission to the Pune-based SII to conduct Phase 2 and 3 human clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine candidate.

AstraZeneca, the biopharmaceutical giant in a tie-up with the Oxford University to produce the vaccine, described the pause of trials as a "routine" one following what was "an unexplained illness".

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News Network
September 19,2020

mask.JPG

New Delhi, Sept 19: Scientists examined the effectiveness of common household fabrics used in homemade masks in blocking droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and have found that they are considerably protective even as a single layer.

While earlier studies have focussed on the transfer of tiny, nanoscale aerosol particles through masks, the researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US said speaking, coughing, and sneezing generates larger droplets -- about one millimeter in diameter -- that can carry virus particles.

They said the larger droplets pose a problem as they can squeeze through the pores of some fabrics if they have sufficient momentum, and break into smaller droplets and become airborne.

In the study, published in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters, the scientists filled the nozzle of an inhaler with distilled water seeded with easy-to-find ultrasmall fluorescent particles -- which happens to be the size of a novel coronavirus particle.

The inhaler forced the water through the nozzle when puffed, and generated high-momentum droplets that collected on a plastic dish placed in front of the inhaler, the study noted.

The researchers repeated this process with the various materials placed over the collection dishes to test their ability to block the particles.

"We count the number of nanoparticles landing on the dish using a high-resolution confocal microscope. We can then use the ratio of the number collected with and without the fabric to give us a measure of droplet-blocking efficiency," said study co-author Taher Saif.

However, the scientists said for an individual to feel compelled to wear a mask, the material must not only be able to block the droplets, but also be comfortable and breathable.

"A mask made out of a low-breathability fabric is not only uncomfortable, but can also result in leakage as the exhaled air is forced out around contours of a face, defeating the purpose of the mask and providing a false sense of protection," Saif said.

"Our goal is to show that many common fabrics exploit the trade-off between breathability and efficiency of blocking droplets -- large and small," he added.

The scientists tested the breathability and droplet-blocking ability of 11 common household fabrics, including new and used garments, quilted cloths, bedsheets and dishcloth material, using a medical mask as a benchmark.

They then characterised the fabrics in terms of their construction, fiber content, weight, thread count, porosity and water-absorption rate.

Their analyses revealed that droplets leave the inhaler at about 17 metres per second (mps) while those released by speaking, coughing and sneezing have velocities within the range of 10 to 40 (mps).

"We found that all of the fabrics tested are considerably effective at blocking the 100 nanometer particles carried by high-velocity droplets similar to those that may be released by speaking, coughing and sneezing, even as a single layer," Saif said.

"With two or three layers, even the more permeable fabrics, such as T-shirt cloth, achieve droplet-blocking efficiency that is similar to that of a medical mask, while still maintaining comparable or better breathability," he added.

The researchers believe the new experimental platform may offer a way to test fabrics for their blocking efficiency against the small and larger droplets that are released as people breathe, or cough.

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