The COVID-19 Misinfodemic: Moving Beyond Fact-Checking

Health Educ Behav. 2021 Feb;48(1):9-13. doi: 10.1177/1090198120980675. Epub 2020 Dec 16.

Abstract

Online misinformation regarding COVID-19 has undermined public health efforts to control the novel coronavirus. To date, public health organizations' efforts to counter COVID-19 misinformation have focused on identifying and correcting false information on social media platforms. Citing extant literature in health communication and psychology, we argue that these fact-checking efforts are a necessary, but insufficient, response to health misinformation. First, research suggests that fact-checking has several important limitations and is rarely successful in fully undoing the effects of misinformation exposure. Second, there are many factors driving misinformation sharing and acceptance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic-such as emotions, distrust, cognitive biases, racism, and xenophobia-and these factors both make individuals more vulnerable to certain types of misinformation and also make them impervious to future correction attempts. We conclude by outlining several additional measures, beyond fact-checking, that may help further mitigate the effects of misinformation in the current pandemic.

Keywords: health communication; infectious disease; misinformation; social media.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Communication
  • Health Communication / standards*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media / standards*
  • Trust