As COVID-19 spread across the world, so did conspiracy theories and false information about the virus. This proliferation of misinformation–labeled an “infodemic” by the World Health Organization (WHO)–makes it difficult to identify trustworthy sources and can threaten public health by undermining confidence in science, governments, and public health recommendations.
The consequences of misinformation can be tragic: hundreds died and thousands were poisoned in Iran after consuming toxic methanol alcohol, falsely believing it could cure COVID-19.
In a new article in the Journal of Public Health Policy, legal scholars at NYU School of Global Public Health and the global health organization Vital Strategies identify five approaches countries have taken to address misinformation about COVID-19. Their tactics ranged from helpful practices like creating media campaigns sharing accurate information to harmful practices like suppressing whistleblowers and factual information, or disseminating disinformation (the intentional spread of false information) on their own. Several approaches criminalized expression, eliciting human rights concerns, given that international law protects freedom of expression.
Continue reading “How governments address COVID-19 misinformation–for better or for worse”
A recent study highlights two of the reasons that misinformation about COVID-19 is so difficult to tackle on social media: most people think they’re above average at spotting misinformation; and misinformation often triggers negative emotions that resonate with people. The findings may help communicators share accurate information more effectively.
“This study gives us more insight into how users respond to misinformation about the pandemic on social media platforms,” says Yang Cheng, first author of the study and an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University. “It also gives us information we can use to share accurate information more effectively.”
Continue reading “What makes COVID misinformation so tough to stop on social media”
People who relied on conservative media or social media in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak were more likely to be misinformed about how to prevent the virus and believe conspiracy theories about it, a study of media use and public knowledge has found.
Based on an Annenberg Science Knowledge survey fielded in early March with over a thousand adults, the study was conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The study, published this week in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, found that there were notable differences in views about the coronavirus that correlated with people’s media consumption.
Media usage and COVID-19 misinformation
Conservative media usage (such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh) correlated with higher levels of misinformation and belief in conspiracies about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, including:
Continue reading “Conservative and social media usage associated with misinformation about COVID-19”