By Dan Brahmy
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that online social conversations can travel quickly, with the healthcare industry in particular becoming a prime target for disinformation campaigns during the last year.
When it comes to facts regarding COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccines, disinformation has permeated discussions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. Unfortunately, some of these conversations include negative sentiment, fake account creation and overall misleading online chatter on specific companies' vaccination efforts, treatment offerings and overall pandemic communication strategies.
As the country struggles to discern the real from fake news around the pandemic, fake profiles and “bad actors” (real accounts with nefarious agendas) are not helping the case. With so much still unknown when it comes to the virus, vaccine rollout and the return to “normal” life, average online users can find it hard to determine the truth while different stories are being shared across the internet.
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Where the beginning of lockdown saw a rise in disinformation around the virus itself, recent disinformation campaigns have put COVID-19 vaccines front and center. For example, Cyabra scanned over 390,000 profiles across Twitter and Facebook, who engaged in conversations around the virus and found that 11% of vaccine related posts it analyzed on Twitter were coming from fake accounts. Facebook also demonstrated a high number of profiles using negative sentiment when referring to the vaccines. Further, a study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that Instagram’s own algorithm was prone to spreading misinformation around the vaccine.
As fake news becomes more difficult to detect, healthcare professionals are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to conveying accurate information to their patients, staff members, shareholders and local communities. If hospitals and healthcare facilities want to take on “bad actors” intentionally spreading fake news they should keep track of unusual online behavior, and monitor various platforms to understand typical patient behaviors and values.
How healthcare facilities can fight disinformation
With more people at home than ever before, social media activity is at an all-time high making it important to understand the dangers of disinformation. Uncovering and analyzing disinformation campaigns and their impact on how everyday consumers perceive public health efforts can help healthcare professionals decide the best approach to engaging with patients. Healthcare providers looking to examine these types of campaigns can use AI software to dive further into online conversations, uncover sources and reach, and curb the negative effects of disinformation.