Building Trust While Influencing COVID-19 Social Media Content

April 22, 2020

Social distancing has people more heavily dependent on social media than ever before, both for human interaction and for information about the world, particularly COVID-19. In a paper for The Lancet, “Building Trust While Influencing Online COVID-19 Content in the Social Media,” experts from Johns Hopkins University discuss how social media has undermined effective responses to the pandemic and consider how government leaders, social media companies and healthcare providers could respond to this challenge.

Read the paper here.

“A broad range of misinformation has spread across traditional media and social media in what WHO has called an infodemic (ie, excessive amounts misinformation, disinformation, and rumours that make it difficult identify reliable sources of information),” write the paper’s co-authors, who include Berman Institute faculty Joseph Ali and Anne Barnhill, and Hecht-Levi Fellow Justin Bernstein, as well as colleagues from the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unchecked and rapid spread of misinformation, primarily fuelled by social media, presents a pressing public health challenge for COVID-19 control and mitigation measures, as confusion sowed by misinformation hinders public trust, consensus, and subsequent action.”

The paper argues for the “urgent need to establish practices to effectively disseminate current, accurate information and quickly identify and root out outdated guidance or misinformation” and makes recommendations for such actions, such as having social media platforms uprank “links to recommendations from recognised health authorities, and downranking ads for essential limited medical supplies, such as face masks, to prevent hoarding.”