Limitations of Fact-Checking on Debunking COVID-19 Misinformation on Facebook: the Case of




COVID-19, Croatia, debunking, misinformation, fact-checking, infodemic, effectiveness


This study examines the effectiveness of fact-checking to curb misinformation about COVID-19 spread through social media which has been considered the main channels for spreading misinformation in general (Newman et al., 2021). Using computational methods combined with content analysis, we analyzed Faktograf ’s fact-checks on COVID-19 (N=211) published between July 2020 and March 2021. Using a selected sample, we compared the debunked and misinformed versions of the same story based on the main elements of the communication process: source, channel, message, and recipient, to measure their estimated effectiveness in combating “infodemics”. The main findings show that the practice of fact-checking websites to publish debunking content on their own websites and to use social media to disseminate debunking content is insufficient.

Author Biographies

Mato Brautovic, University of Dubrovnik

Mato Brautović, PhD, is a professor of journalism studies at the University of Dubrovnik, Croatia. He specializes in the study of information disorders in the digital landscape.

Romana John, University of Dubrovnik

Romana John, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Her topics include crisis communication, online public relations, and disinformation research.


Africa Check, Chequeado and Full Facts. (2019, June 20). Fact checking doesn’t work (the way you think it does). Full Fact.

Amazeen, M.A. (2012). Blind Spots: Examining Political Advertising Misinformation and How U.S. News Media Hold Political Actors Accountable. Dissertation Abstracts International 74(02).

Amazeen, M. A. (2015). Revisiting the epistemology of fact-checking. Critical Review, 27(1): 1–22.

Amazeen, M.A., Thorson, E., Muddiman, A. & Graves, L. (2015). A Comparison of Correction Formats: The Effectiveness and Effects of Rating Scale versus Contextual Corrections on Misinformation. American Press Institute.

Banerjee, D. & Meena, K. S. (2021). COVID-19 as an “Infodemic” in Public Health: Critical Role of the Social Media. Frontiers in Public Health.

Brautović, M. (2022). Mapping fact-checking and fact-disseminating networks in Croatia. Gong. (In print).

CrowdTangle. (2021). About us.

Damnjanovic, B. (January 8, 2021). Počelo je! Od vakcine umiru u Norveškoj, Izraelu i Sloveniji, paralize u Meksiku! Poštovaoci lika i djela dr Branimira Nestorovića (Started! They die from the vaccine in Norway, Israel and Slovenia, paralysis in Mexico! Admirers of the character and work of Dr. Branimir Nestorović). Facebook.

de Carbonnel, A. (July 11, 2019). Exclusive: Echo chambers – Fake news fact-checks hobbled by low reach, study shows. Reuters. (2021). About us. EJTA. (2021). Our Mission. (2021). O nama. (About us)

Fiebert, M., Aliee, A., Yassami, H. & Dorethy, M. (2014). The Life Cycle of a Facebook Post. The Open Psychology Journal, 7, 18–19.

French Government. (2021). Against information manipulation.

Fridkin, K., Kenney, P.J. & Wintersieck, K. (2015). Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: How Fact-Checking Influences Citizens’ Reactions to Negative Advertising. Political Communication, 32, 127–151.

Građansko buđenje. (2021, January 20). Opet “Mjerodavni, stručni, vjerodostojni” F…graf raskrinkao: istinu i fakte. Građansko buđenje. Facebook.

Graves, L. (2016). Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism. Columbia University Press.

Islam, S., Sarkar, T., Hossain Khan, S. Mostofa Kamal, A., Hasan, S. M. M., Kabir, A., Yeasmin, D., Ariful Islam, M., Ibne Amin Chowdhury, K., Selim Anwar, K., Ahmad Chughtai, A. , and Seale, H. (2021). “COVID-19–Related Infodemic and Its Impact on Public Health: A Global Social Media Analysis”. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 103 (4), 1621–1629.–0812.

Kauk, J., Kreysa, H. & Schweinberger, S. (2021). “Understanding and countering the spread of conspiracy theories in social networks: Evidence from epidemiological models of Twitter data”. PLoS One, 16(8).

Kurtzleben, D. (2016, September 27). Do Fact Checks Matter? NPR.

Li, Y., & Xie, Y. (2020). „Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? An Empirical Study of Image Content and Social Media Engagement”. Journal of Marketing Research, 57(1), 1–19.

McQuail, D. & Windahl, S. (1993). Communication models for the study of mass communications, 2 ed. Routledge.

Naeem, S. B. & Bhatti, R. (2020). The Covid-19 ‘infodemic’: a new front for information professionals. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 37(3), 233–239.

Naeem, S. B., Bhatti, R. & Khan, A. (2020). An exploration of how fake news is taking over social media and putting public health at risk. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 38(2), 143–149.

Newman, N., Fletcher, R., Schulz, A., Andi, S., Robertson, C. T. & Nielsen, R. K. (2021). Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.–06/Digital_News_Report_2021_FINAL.pdf.

Nyhan, B. & Reifler, J. (2010). When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions. Political Behavior, 32, 303–330.

Nyhan, B., Porter, E., Reifler, J. & Wood, T.J. (2019). Taking Fact-checks Literally But Not Seriously? The Effects of Journalistic Fact-checking on Factual Beliefs and Candidate Favorability. Forthcoming at Political Behavior.

Occupy Croatia. (2021, January 13). Postoje li dokazi da ga neće uzrokovati?( Is there evidence that it won’t cause it?) Pokret Occupy Croatia. Facebbok.

Perić, M. (July 15, 2020a). Lažni liječnik zarađuje milijune šireći dezinformacije o Covidu-19. (A fake doctor is making millions spreading misinformation about Covid-19)

Perić, M. (2020b, September 21). Dezinformacije kao sastavni dio promoviranja životnog stila. (Disinformation as an integral part of promoting lifestyle.)

SEE Check. (2020). SEE Check.


Stangroom, J. (2022). Spearman’s Rho Calculator.

Stencel, M. & Luther, J. (2021, June 2). Fact-checking census shows slower growth. Duke Reporters’ LAB.

Stiglitz, A. (2020). Mis – and Disinformation online: A Taxonomy of Solutions. [Doctoral dissertation, Universidad de Navarra].

Strazicic, D., John, R. & Brautovic, M. (2021). The Media Habits of Young People during the Covid-19 Pandemic and Disinformation on the Example of Students at the University of Dubrovnik. [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Department of Mass Communication, University of Dubrovnik.

Young, D.G., Hall Jamieson, K., Poulsen, S. & Goldring, A. (2018). Fact-Checking Effectiveness as a Function of Format and Tone: Evaluating and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(1) 49–75.

Uscinski J.E. & Butler, R. W. (2013). The Epistemology of Fact Checking. A Journal of Politics and Society, 25(2), 162–180.

Uscinski, J. E. (2015). The epistemology of fact checking (is still naìve): Rejoinder to Amazeen. Critical Review, 27(2), 243–252.

van der Linden, S. & Roozenbeek, J. (2021). Psychological inoculation against fake news. In R. Greifeneder, M. E. Jaffé, E. J. Newman, and N. Schwarz (Eds.), The Psychology of Fake News: Accepting, Sharing, and Correcting Misinformation. (pp. 147–170). Routledge.

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359 (6380), 1146–1151.

Walter, N., Cohen, J., Holbert, R. L. & Morag, Y. (2020). Fact-Checking: A Meta-Analysis of What Works and for Whom. Political Communication, 37(3), 350–375.

WHO. (2021). Infodemic. World Health Organization.




How to Cite

Brautovic, M., & John, R. (2023). Limitations of Fact-Checking on Debunking COVID-19 Misinformation on Facebook: the Case of Central European Journal of Communication, 16(1(33), 40-58.



Scientific Papers