Evaluating the elevation of authoritative health content online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Michael Walsh, Stephanie Baker, Matthew Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
To respond to the COVID-19 “infodemic” and combat fraud and misinformation about the virus, social media platforms coordinated with government healthcare agencies around the world to elevate authoritative content about the novel coronavirus. These public health authorities included national and global public health organisations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this article, the authors evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy by asking two key questions: (1) Did people engage with authoritative health content on social media? (2) Was this content trusted?

Design/methodology/approach
The authors explore these issues by drawing on data from a global online questionnaire on “Public Trust in Experts” (n = 429) conducted during the initial phase of the pandemic in May 2020, a crucial period when reliable information was urgently required to influence behaviour and minimise harm.

Findings
The authors found that while the majority of those surveyed noticed authoritative health content online, there remained significant issues in terms of Internet users trusting the information shared by government healthcare agencies and public health authorities online.

Originality/value
In what follows, the authors examine the role of trust in implementing this novel public health strategy and assess the capacity for such policies to reduce individual and social harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalOnline Information Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

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