Note: The article is important for TISSNET.
Covid-19 is the first pandemic in history to involve broad use of technology and social media, as well as extensive distribution of health rumours, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to coin the term “infodemic” to describe the pandemic.
The term “infodemic” refers to an oversupply of information that makes it difficult for consumers to distinguish between reliable and trustworthy sources and those that are inaccurate or misleading.
Health information, particularly on social media, is frequently published, shared, and re-shared in the current state of emergency. Fake news, regardless of its reality, frequently leads to the propagation of misinformation and rumours in the name of truth.
The Covid-19 vaccination is one example of a fear misperception. As a result, the World Health Organization designated vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health.
Pandemic & Infodemic Linkage
- Paradigm Shift: The 20th-century ecosystem, which was controlled by print and broadcast media, is giving way to an increasingly digital, mobile, and social media-dominated ecology.
- Any authentication mechanisms are rendered useless due to the lack of screening on internet sites.
- Cognitive Overload of Information: The pandemic causes confusion, contradiction, fear, and uncertainty, which can contribute to an increase in the spread of health rumours.
- On social media, when consumers are already cognitively overburdened with plenty of information, the correctness, validity, and perceived reliability of the source are overlooked.
- Public Coping Mechanism: During a crisis (e.g., a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or a worldwide pandemic), many studies have demonstrated that spreading rumours serves as a coping mechanism.
- People get a false sense of relaxation, resulting in a reduction in worry or worries related with the unclear circumstance.
- Previous research has indicated that health rumours spread in a society can induce dread in the long term, especially during a pandemic.
- Systemic Baggage: In a developing country like India, rumor-mongering is fueled by mistrust of health institutions and specialists, misunderstandings about herd immunity, and fear of vaccine development.
- These variables contribute to the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation on social media.
- Utilizing Social Media’s Positive Role: While social media may be a fertile field for harmful rumour-mongering, it can also be an invaluable source of essential information.
- To dispel misinformation and fill knowledge gaps, governments and health authorities must create an engaging web presence.
- Additionally, involving celebrities and social media influencers can help motivate people who are hesitant to get the vaccine.
- Responsibility of Social Media Platforms: Social media networks, such as Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp, have a responsibility to create features that enables people to access verified information.
- They must also increase their efforts in identifying disinformation and quickly deleting health rumours.
- Information Hygiene: While Covid-19 and social media have emphasised the necessity of preserving personal hygiene, society now needs to talk about information hygiene. The following are examples of information hygiene:
- Authenticating the source of information.
- Checking with a fact-checking website is a good idea.
- Inquiring about an expert’s perspective on the subject.
- While reading a sent news item on social media, using reasonable reasoning.
- Putting these concepts into practise before sharing them.