Addressing Viral Medical Rumors and False or Misleading Information

(From the August 2023 Annals for Educators)

The rapid spread of medical rumors and false or misleading medical information on social media is a vexing challenge that threatens health. Understanding the information ecosystem can provide critical insights for strong coordination between stakeholders and funders to counter this threat. This article describes the efforts of ThisIsOurShot and VacunateYa to spread accurate health information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines and discusses the lessons that have been learned. The authors provide recommendations for future coordinated efforts to counter the digital spread of medical rumors, misinformation, and disinformation.

Use this article to:

  • Think about your experiences of encountering patients who have been influenced by misleading health information spread via social media.
  • Review the definitions of misinformation, disinformation, and viral rumors provided in the article.
  • Should the strategies for counteracting these various types of misleading information be different?
  • Search Google for information about COVID-19 vaccines. Do the sources shown at the top of the search appear to be credible? What factors drive judgments about credibility?
  • Think about what might be done beyond the recommendations in this article to reduce the spread of misleading health information on social media.

Explore ACP's Efforts to Fight Medical Misinformation and Disinformation for vaccine education resources and strategies to help combat health misinformation.

Annals for Educators is a Web Exclusives feature of Annals of Internal Medicine which includes activities using selected Annals articles to help medical educators in their teaching activities.

Back to the September 2023 issue of ACP IMpact