Focusing on determinants and distribution of health information and misinformation on the internet, and its effect on public and individual health.
Tim Ken Mackey, MAS, PhD, University of California San Diego, USA
Tim Ken Mackey, MAS, PhD, University of California San Diego, USA
JMIR Infodemiology (JI, ISSN 2564-1891, Editor-in-Chief: Tim Ken Mackey) launched in 2021 is a PubMed Central, PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus, DOAJ, CABI-indexed, peer reviewed journal, focusing on determinants and the distribution of health information and misinformation on the internet, and its effect on public and individual health. The new scientific discipline of "Infodemiology," first introduced in 2002, has been gaining momentum due to the COVID-19 infodemic, with the WHO recognizing it as an important pillar to manage public health emergencies. JMIR Publications is proud to have been spearheading the advancement of this new scientific discipline for more than a decade. We are now accelerating the development of this new, interdisciplinary discipline with the first and only journal devoted to this rapidly evolving field, by bringing together thought leaders in research, data science, and policy. Areas of interest include information monitoring (infoveillance, including social listening); ehealth literacy and science literacy; knowledge refinement and quality improvement processes and policies; and the influence of political and commercial interests on effective knowledge translation.
Traditionally, surveys are conducted to answer questions related to public health but can be costly to execute. However, the information that researchers aim to extract from surveys could potentially be retrieved from social media, which possesses data that are highly accessible and lower in cost to collect.
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rapid real-time surveillance of epidemiological data to advise governments and the public, but the accuracy of these data depends on myriad auxiliary assumptions, not least accurate reporting of cases by the public. Wastewater monitoring has emerged internationally as an accurate and objective means for assessing disease prevalence with reduced latency and less dependence on public vigilance, reliability, and engagement. How public interest aligns with COVID-19 personal testing data and wastewater monitoring is, however, very poorly characterized.
TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to create and share content through short videos. It has become a place for everyday users, especially Generation Z users, to share experiences about their reproductive health. Owing to its growing popularity and easy accessibility, TikTok can help raise awareness for reproductive health issues as well as help destigmatize these conversations.
The rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19 has been linked to a lower uptake of preventive behaviors such as vaccination. Some individuals, however, have been able to resist believing in COVID-19 misinformation. Further, some have acted as information advocates, spreading accurate information and combating misinformation about the pandemic.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug resembling glass fragments or shiny bluish-white rocks that can be taken through smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting the powder once it has been dissolved in water or alcohol.
Social media has proven to be valuable for disseminating public health information during pandemics. However, the circulation of misinformation through social media during public health emergencies, such as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Ebola, and COVID-19 pandemics, has seriously hampered effective responses, leading to negative consequences. Intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news aims to harm organizations and individuals. To effectively respond to misinformation, governments should strengthen the management of an “infodemic,” which involves monitoring the impact of infodemics through social listening, detecting signals of infodemic spread, mitigating the harmful effects of infodemics, and strengthening the resilience of individuals and communities. The global spread of misinformation requires multisectoral collaboration, such as researchers identifying leading sources of misinformation and superspreaders, media agencies identifying and debunking misinformation, technology platforms reducing the distribution of false or misleading posts and guiding users to health information from credible sources, and governments disseminating clear public health information in partnership with trusted messengers. Additionally, fact-checking has room for improvement through the use of automated checks. Collaboration between governments and fact-checking agencies should also be strengthened via effective and timely debunking mechanisms. Though the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) has yet to define the term “infodemic,” Article 18 of the INB Bureau’s text, developed for the Pandemic Accord, encompasses a range of actions aimed at enhancing infodemic management. The INB Bureau continues to facilitate evidence-informed discussion for an implementable article on infodemic management.
The use of social media platforms to seek information continues to increase. Social media platforms can be used to disseminate important information to people worldwide instantaneously. However, their viral nature also makes it easy to share misinformation, disinformation, unverified information, and fake news. The unprecedented reliance on social media platforms to seek information during the COVID-19 pandemic was accompanied by increased incidents of misinformation and disinformation. Consequently, there was an increase in the number of scientific publications related to the role of social media in disseminating health misinformation and disinformation at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health misinformation and disinformation, especially in periods of global public health disasters, can lead to the erosion of trust in policy makers at best and fatal consequences at worst.
During the early pandemic, there was substantial variation in public and government responses to COVID-19 in Europe and the United States. Mass media are a vital source of health information and news, frequently disseminating this information through social media, and may influence public and policy responses to the pandemic.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a need for rapid social understanding to inform infodemic management and response. Although social media analysis platforms have traditionally been designed for commercial brands for marketing and sales purposes, they have been underused and adapted for a comprehensive understanding of social dynamics in areas such as public health. Traditional systems have challenges for public health use, and new tools and innovative methods are required. The World Health Organization Early Artificial Intelligence–Supported Response with Social Listening (EARS) platform was developed to overcome some of these challenges.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global effort to develop vaccines that protect against COVID-19. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are far less likely to contract and therefore transmit the virus to others. Researchers have found that the internet and social media both play a role in shaping personal choices about vaccinations.