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Environment of Misinformation

Focus area:

Emerging Infectious Disease and Epidemics

Medical and Public Health Preparedness and Response

Recently, the dissemination of misinformation has become an important global issue. While the spread of misinformation is not a new phenomenon, the emergence of social media platforms that connect networks of people, who often have similar opinions and cultural beliefs, has exacerbated and amplified this problem. Although misinformation is often associated with political campaigns, the public health community has not been exempted from its negative effects. Characterizing the spread of science- or health-related misinformation can allow for a more critical and evidence-based analysis of misinformation and inform risk communication strategies during public health emergencies.

During infectious disease outbreaks, effective communication is critical for efficient response and recovery efforts. Fear, uncertainty, and lack of knowledge may increase opportunities for the propagation of misinformation. Given some of these psychological factors, emergency situations can be particularly ideal for the spread of misinformation because the information seeking behaviors of affected parties are increased. Public health professionals have acknowledged that social media will now play a major role in the communication of future disasters, increasing the need for better understanding of misinformation.

This project takes a unique look at misinformation in the context of health-related emergencies, disasters, and outbreaks through an examination of Twitter, news media, and public policy. Additionally, we are assessing the landscape of potential actions that government-entities are taking to combat misinformation.

Project team lead: Tara Kirk Sell, PhD

Project team: Divya Hosangadi*, MSPH; Marc Trotochaud, MSPH

Project supported by: Open Philanthropy Project


* Leading analysis of anti-misinformation actions



Our Mission

To protect people’s health from epidemics and disasters and ensure that communities are resilient to major challenges.