Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a partnership with the University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) and the Arkansas Research Alliance to identify and track scam websites and social media misinformation related to COVID-19 that have rapidly spread with the pandemic. 

Misinformation posted on websites and social media has been spreading quickly. False claims, misleading information and the sale of fake cures and treatments undermine Arkansas’ efforts to combat this disease and present a hazard to consumers’ physical, financial and online safety. The collaboration with COSMOS offers a new avenue to quickly identify the bad actors who want to spread misinformation or steal consumers’ money or identity.   

COSMOS’ researchers have developed a website that can help people identify, understand, and report misinformation, fake websites, and scams regarding COVID-19, which is published at http://cosmos.ualr.edu/covid-19 for the general public to view. 

“During this phase of the pandemic where fear is peaking, it is extremely important to stop bad actors that are using the internet to offer misinformation, sell fake tests, cures or solicit contributions to fake COVID charities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This partnership will ensure we are quickly identifying and putting a stop to fake websites that are spreading misinformation with the purpose of stealing from Arkansans.”

Rutledge’s partnership will include working with Dr. Nitin Agarwal, fellow of the Arkansas Research Alliance and a Distinguished Professor of Information Science at UALR. Dr. Agarwal and his team of researchers at COSMOS study online behavior to identify and combat threats. 

“Working with the Attorney General’s office gives us the opportunity to apply our internationally renowned research on malicious cyber behaviors right here at home,” said Dr. Agarwal. “We are confident that this partnership will open avenues for exciting research opportunities and spark innovation.”

Dr. Agarwal is directing several projects with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Army Research Office (ARO), U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

To find out more information about COVID-19 scams and fake websites, visit http://cosmos.ualr.edu/covid-19. Consumers may also file a consumer complaint at ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

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