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Evaluating the elevation of authoritative health content online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Walsh, M. J., Baker, S. A. ORCID: 0000-0002-4921-2456 & Wade, M. (2022). Evaluating the elevation of authoritative health content online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online Information Review, 47(4), pp. 782-800. doi: 10.1108/oir-12-2021-0655


Purpose: To respond to the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ and combat fraud and misinformation about the virus, social media platforms coordinated with government healthcare agencies around the world to elevate authoritative content about the novel coronavirus. These public health authorities included national and global public health organisations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this article we seek to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy by asking two key questions: 1) Did people engage with authoritative health content on social media? 2) Was this content trusted?

Approach: We explore these issues by drawing on data from a global online questionnaire on ‘Public Trust in Experts’ (n = 429) conducted during the initial phase of the pandemic in May 2020, a crucial period when reliable information was urgently required to influence behaviour and minimize harm.

Results: We found that while the majority of those surveyed noticed authoritative health content online, there remained significant issues in terms of internet users trusting the information shared by government healthcare agencies and public health authorities online.

Originality: In what follows, we examine the role of trust in implementing this novel public health strategy and assess the capacity for such policies to reduce individual and social harm.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © the authors, 2022. This AAM is provided for your own personal use only. It may not be used for resale, reprinting, systematic distribution, emailing, or for any other commercial purpose without the permission of the publisher.
Publisher Keywords: Social Media, Authoritative Content, Trust, Misinformation, Expertise
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR180 Immunology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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