Misinformation spreads about Coronavirus and panic kicks in online

2020 Coronavirus Social Media and Search Study by SEMrush

As the World Health Organisations declares the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency new cases of the alarming Coronavirus continue to be reported in Australia. With news updates being posted or announced every hour,  worried Australians are jumping online to find out more.

Not only has the virus spread around China and globally with confirmed cases now in Australia, Germany and the USA, so too has the misinformation surrounding the crisis. Conspiracy theories have spread like wildfire across the internet via social media sharing and this is partly due to the strictly censored and limited news coming out of China.

Some people have suggested it was planned to control the population, others have said that it is a bioweapons attack, one idea was that it was due to the Chinese bat soup and others have blamed scientists for deliberately developing it. There are also some claims that the actual number of people infected in China is more like 90,000 and the Chinese Government is covering up the truth.

Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush says amongst fear of the unknown people are turning to social media to voice their concerns.

“It’s fairly common these days for misinformation to be spread via social media during a crisis and this was seen during Australia’s bushfire emergency recently too. The public is rightfully concerned for their family’s welfare at the moment and the lack of news coming out of China and the statements from the Australian authorities calling for calm is driving both online search and social media chatter surrounding the Coronavirus epidemic.”

More often than ever these days people are turning to Google to seek answers and this is extremely clear when it comes to the virus. The top question people are asking is if the coronavirus is deadly which has seen a 400% growth between January 21st to 24th alone. The question most people are becoming increasingly concerned with is ‘what are the symptoms of coronavirus’ which has seen a 700% jump in searches within just three days.

Top 5 questions people are searching about coronavirus online:

  1. Is coronavirus deadly?
  2. What is coronavirus?
  3. What are coronavirus symptoms?
  4. What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
  5. Is coronavirus contagious?

Global Search Volumes:

  • Each day since January 21 the popularity of the search term ‘china virus’ grows by 15%
  • Meanwhile for the term ‘Coronavirus’ it’s about 25%, compared to the previous day.
  • Overall both terms have grown 10 times in comparison with January 20th.
  • Google searches for ‘Corona Beer’' and ‘Corona Beer Virus' are both up significantly in the last week, when the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the U.S.
  • Online Searches for face masks are drastically increasing - ‘P2 face mask’ has risen by 8507% and ‘face protection mask’ soared by 1340% since the beginning of the year.

Coronavirus related Social Media Sentiment

Trusted data provider, SEMrush has analysed Twitter and Instagram activity around Coronavirus to see what Australian people are saying about it on social media and searching for online.


Posts for Jan 14-28, 2020 Top hashtags Top words
Total number of Instagram posts 22,195 Hashtag count word count
Instagram posts used for sentiment analysis (>2 words) 19,560 #coronavirus 1702 coronavirus 24365
Time range Jan 14-28 #china 1089 china 13656
#virus 994 virus 13561
Sentiment % of tweets #wuhan 811 Wuhan 8736
positive 39.40% #corona 718 corona 5626
neutral 28.03% #memes 710 yang 4543
negative 32.57% #news 640 people 3345
#meme 621 health 2972
#pandemic 564 outbreak 2711
Most Popular Post #outbreak 507 news 2623 #dankmemes 497 new 2448
#health 472 epidemic 2188
#coronavirusoutbreak 466 memes 2135
#viruscorona 432 2020 1983
#funny 418 pandemic 1898
#usa 319 Chinese 1851
#regrann 313 world 1595
#alerta 298 meme 1561
#viral 292 2019 1561
#memesdaily 289 dengan 1487



Tweets for Jan 14-28, 2020 Top hashtags Top words
Total number of tweets 1,781,406 hashtag count word count
Tweets used for analysis (due to time limitations) 197,329 #coronavirus 64547 coronavirus 207208
Tweets used for sentiment analysis (>2 words) 175,898 #wuhan 7366 china 55337
Time range Jan 14-28 #china 6875 Wuhan 31072
#breaking 2468 virus 17542
Sentiment % of tweets #coronaoutbreak 2340 people 15670
positive 26.56% #coronarvirues 2028 outbreak 15263
neutral 36.57% #coronavirusoutbreak 1574 cases 12785
negative 36.87% #wuhancoronavirus 1557 news 12351
#2019ncov 1444 health 11953
#ncov2019 1408 2020 11339
Most Popular Tweet #wuhanvirus 1256 new 10535 #virus 1185 case 10461
#ncov 1148 Chinese


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