Correcting misinformation and acting as an expert source on social media within the healthcare realm is the focus of this article. It was an interesting read that undersold the findings a little. The abstract could have done a better job in ‘selling’ the article as it was nearly passed on by thanks to a brain-closing beginning…
Essentially, the authors sought to examine the role an expert source may have in correcting misinformation being spread on social media, as well as whether there is actual benefit (other than perhaps PR and reputation) in joining in with the correction-fest if another authoritative source has already done so. A good introduction (once you get past the horrible abstract) and literature review set the scene well, leading into a clear view of a hypothesis and custom methodology, using the Zika virus pandemic as a case study research base. Building on prior research that noted some misinformed posts got greater public engagement and sharing, the research sought to simulate a Twitter feed with variables to ascertain reactions and analysis that contributing sources could have an impact on and why.
The research design was interesting, even though it can have some limitations as different user demographics and behaviours exist on different social media platforms. This need not invalidate the broader findings in any case and can act as a good platform for future, broader research going forward. Research analysis was detailed although it could have been a little more reader-friendly as not everybody is a stats geek and the subject of the research may attract broader interest. The discussion section was more reader-friendly and engaging, raising some interesting thoughts around the analysed data and subject-at-large.
The key findings were clear: organizations should speak up and correct misinformation and there is certainly no harm with several organizations issuing corrections if necessary, although the benefit may be questionable. Super expert sources such as the CDC in the United States may find it advantageous to monitor and act as advocates due to their trusted status. If such an organization does issue a comment or correction, it should be sufficient to point people to that source rather than add one’s own commentary, however.
In all this was an excellent, considered article. It just needed a lighter tone, without diluting its work, to be more reader-friendly and this attractive to a broader audience as it deserves.
Vraga, E.K. and Bode, L., 2017. Using Expert Sources to Correct Health Misinformation in Social Media. Science Communication. DOI:10.1177/1075547017731776
A post-publication review of this article that appears on Publons.