National Strategy Needed to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation and Disinformation

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has released National Priorities to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation for COVID-19 and Future Public Health Threats: A Call for a National Strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a dangerous influence of health-related misinformation and disinformation. The abundance of access-enabling technology such as social media, cell phones and news media has connected networks of people who share similar cultural beliefs and opinions, which has further amplified the problem. “Health-related misinformation and disinformation are messages that contradict the best expert evidence available at the time and can lead to false perceptions or ‘factual beliefs that are false or contradict the best available evidence in public domain.’ False information may be misinformation (inadvertent spread of erroneous information) or disinformation (deliberately created and propagated false or misleading information).” The result is an increased belief in false medical cures, a reduced trust in public health responders, and further advancement of anti-vaccine campaigns.

National strategy priorities have been developed and separated into 4 Pillars to respond to COVID-19, and prevent future public health misinformation and disinformation:

  • Pillar 1: Intervene against false content and sources propagating it by establishing a nonpartisan commission to provide neutral evidence-based information.
  • Pillar 2: Promote an abundant presence of dissemination of fact-based information by prioritizing health risk communication at federal, state, and local levels, as well as increased coordination between public health experts, social media platforms, and news media.
  • Pillar 3: Increase the public’s awareness of misinformation and disinformation by promoting health and digital literacy in schools, social media, and community organizations.
  • Pillar 4: Ensure a nation-wide response through multisector and multiagency collaboration by collective planning of social media, news media, government, public health officials, and scientists.

This document emphasizes the need for the United States to create a more organized, unified, and multisectoral approach to meet the danger of false COVID-19 information than has been developed thus far. “All stakeholders will need to work together to balance constitutional freedoms, social media platform responsibility, the value of free-flowing information, and the dangers presented by misinformation and disinformation.”

For more information, check out articles on HSDL related to COVID-19 disinformation. Please note an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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