Treating the COVID-19 'infodemic' as an epidemic | Social Media and Healthcare |

A group of science communication researchers proposes to treat the Covid-19 misinformation ''infodemic'' with the same methods used to halt epidemics: real-time surveillance, accurate diagnosis, and rapid response.


"We believe the intertwining spreads of the virus and of misinformation and disinformation require an approach to counteracting deceptions and misconceptions that parallels epidemiologic models by focusing on three elements: real-time surveillance, accurate diagnosis, and rapid response," the authors write in a Perspective article.


"The word 'communicable' comes from the Latin communicare, to share, to make common," said David Scales, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medical College and chief medical officer of the science-promoting nonprofit organization Critica. "What are the similarities between all the information shared on social media and communicable diseases? It's a helpful analogy in thinking through both of them."


Infodemiology is an area of science research focused on scanning the internet for user-contributed health-related content, with the ultimate goal of improving public health. The word "Infodemiology" was defined by Gunther Eysenbach in the early 2000s,


Infoveillance is a type of syndromic surveillance that specifically utilizes information found online


Detecting and halting misinformation


In their article, the authors recommend a series of steps to "halt such misinformation cascades":


Surveillance. Since "an overwhelming amount of misinformation and disinformation circulates on social media," sensitive surveillance systems need to be triggered before information goes viral. Companies such as Facebook should provide researchers with de-identified data on the spread of misinformation. "Lack of access to such data is the equivalent of a near-complete blackout of epidemiologic data from disease epicenters,"


read the paper "The Covid-19 Infodemic — Applying the Epidemiologic Model to Counter Misinformation"  at