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How healthcare can combat the COVID-19 infodemic

October 6, 2021 | 2 min read

By Tim Morris

Building blocks with the words fake and fact sit on a desk covered with newspaper.

There can, however, be serious – and sometimes, fatal – consequences to false information being spread widely, warns Tim Morris.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an influx of potentially harmful information circling the media and instilling fear across the nation. From unproven medical advice, to conspiracy theories questioning the safety of the vaccine, this surge in contradicting information has led to fear, confusion and mistrust amongst civilians. Coupled with the easy accessibility of this information through numerous digital channels, the term “infodemic” has been used to describe this phenomena. A 2018 study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab found that false information was around 70 percent more likely to be shared than the truth.

Headlines tagged as “clickbait” that exaggerate the truth on topics concerning COVID have spread throughout all the major social channels. In addition to this, popular influencers using their platforms to spread information which has not been verified can cause even more harm. Unfortunately, many people will not do extra research to verify whether the claims are true but will take them at face value.

Tim Morris, Clinical Executive, EMEALAAP at Elsevier, warned that there could be huge consequences to false information being spread so widely. He also notes that it is becoming harder to vet the number of journals that are being placed on the internet and there is a risk that they may also contribute to the spread of false information unless from trusted sources.  In this article, Tim highlights the responsibility healthcare providers have in dispelling the conspiracies and tackling misinformation.