Dangers of the Infodemic
Harms of Misinformation
Early in the pandemic the World Health Organization’s director-general has said that “disinformation is as dangerous as COVID-19”. Based the analysis we have seen, the primary harms of misinformation related to COVID-19 are likely:
Fear mongering and increasing panic and angst
Threat to the physical safety of individuals
Limiting the effectiveness of official efforts to curb the pandemic
Categories of Misinformation
Efforts to counter misinformation need to address both their source and the type of misinformation they represent. The primary types of misinformation we saw related to the COVID-19 pandemic are:
factors that contribute to disease transmission
conspiracies about the root cause of the disease
The primary sources of information are:
both U.S. and foreign clickbait sites, some of which have simply been repurposed for reporting on the pandemic
celebrities in the entertainment, news and political realm, both online and offline
bad political actors, both in the U.S. and internationally
These sources may create or amplify information, or both.
Successful strategies for countering misinformation will involve both moderation and removal of misinformation, and empowering the creation and distribution of accurate and reliable information.
- This includes rumors related to the impact of 5G technology on the disease and whether Bill Gates, George Soros, the military, or other “elites” have had a role in creating it.