Understanding the Problem

medical misinformation

The current digital age has allowed for unparalleled advances across nearly all aspects of daily life. With unprecedented amounts of information being rapidly shared across countless mediums, true and false information, spread by both well-intentioned and corrupt actors, has become severely intertwined. As a result, the global information ecosystem has become dangerously murky and polluted, threatening the health of people and communities. 

Its difficult to get a sense of just how much misinformation is online but recent work has found: 

  • In a recent study, researchers found 24.8% of their sample tweets included misinformation, and 107 tweets (17.4%) included unverifiable information regarding the COVID-19 epidemic (Kouzy et al., 2020).
  • Gage-Bouchard et al. (2018) found that of cancer-related information on Facebook, 19% was not scientifically accurate and 14% described unproven treatment modalities.
  • A study of YouTube videos about the 2015–16 Zika virus pandemic found 23.8% of videos contained misleading information and were more popular than videos containing only accurate information (Bora et al., 2018).

A diverse group of agents and actors, acting as a group or independently, spread misinformation for a wide range of reasons that may be fueled by political, social, or financial objectives.

The spread and influence of misinformation is shaped by the complex interplay of motivations, behaviors, psychological processes, and technological variables. Making sense of these inputs can make it easier to understand why some patients regard inaccurate or conspiratorial information they’ve encountered online as true.

Motivational Factors: 

  • Insufficient reasoning & attention 
  • It feels good to share
  • Good intentions

Psychological Factors: 

  • Cognitive biases & heuristics
  • Emotions 

Socio-technical Factors: 

  • Information overload
  • Echo chambers

Want to connect?