Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, charts and graphs have helped provide information on infection rates, deaths, and vaccinations. In some cases, this visualization may encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of the virus, such as wearing a mask. The pandemic has been seen as a breakthrough moment in data visualization.
But the new findings reveal a more complicated situation. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed how coronavirus skeptics use data visualizations online to protest the benefits of public health conservative mask rules. This kind of “anti-visualization” is usually quite complex, using official data sets and the most advanced visualization methods.
Researchers scoured hundreds of thousands of social media posts and found that COVID-19 skeptics often deploy anti-visualizations using “data-following” statements similar to those of public health experts. However, the policies advocated by skeptics are not entirely different. The researchers concluded that data visualization is not sufficient to convey the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, as even the most obvious diagrams can be explained by different belief systems.