Here are five recommendations based on our research about medical misinformation at the Shorenstein Center:
Debunking every rumor, every conspiracy theory, and all political punditry exhausts critical resources. Furthermore, there has been a deluge of requests for interviews with medical personnel and public health advocates. Health communicators should establish a monitoring protocol to decide which misinformation is gaining traction and approaching a tipping point, such as when misinformation moves across platforms or someone newsworthy, such as a politician or celebrity, distributes it.
We recommend routinely checking the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s rumor database and Google’s fact-checking database of recently debunked news stories. Scan comments posted to local social media groups and public messaging apps, such as Nextdoor. Keep a log of comments the organization receives via social media accounts, telephone, or e-mail. Importantly, no one should respond to misinformation unless there is good reason to do so and they have a plan for communicating it publicly. It is recommended not to respond to individuals but rather to debunk major misinformation themes.
It is crucial… that health communication professionals understand the limitations of social media and actively work to mitigate misinformation to lessen the harms caused by unchecked scams, hoaxes, and conspiracies; the public must be able to access timely, local, and relevant information when they need it most.