Coronavirus (1290) COVID-19-related misinformation on social media: a systematic review

1 June, 2021

The authors of this study say: 'The most effective strategies for tackling COVID-19-related misinformation are currently not known.' This is an indictment of the international community's level of progress on addressing misinformation as compared with, say, progress on vaccination. How can we do better?

CITATION: COVID-19-related misinformation on social media: a systematic review

Elia Gabarron, Sunday Oluwafemi Oyeyemi & Rolf Wynn

WHO Bulletin, June 2021


Objective: To review misinformation related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on social media during the first phase of the pandemic and to discuss ways of countering misinformation.

Methods: We searched PubMed®, Scopus, Embase®, PsycInfo and Google Scholar databases on 5 May 2020 and 1 June 2020 for publications related to COVID-19 and social media which dealt with misinformation and which were primary empirical studies. We followed the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses and the guidelines for using a measurement tool to assess systematic reviews. Evidence quality and the risk of bias of included studies were classified using the grading of recommendations assessment, development and evaluation approach...

Findings: We identified 22 studies for inclusion in the qualitative synthesis. The proportion of COVID-19 misinformation on social media ranged from 0.2% (413/212 846) to 28.8% (194/673) of posts. Of the 22 studies, 11 did not categorize the type of COVID-19-related misinformation, nine described specific misinformation myths and two reported sarcasm or humour related to COVID-19. Only four studies addressed the possible consequences of COVID-19-related misinformation: all reported that it led to fear or panic.

Conclusion: Social media play an increasingly important role in spreading both accurate information and misinformation. The findings of this review may help health-care organizations prepare their responses to subsequent phases in the COVID–19 infodemic and to future infodemics in general.


Sixteen of the 22 studies proposed one or several ways of tackling COVID-19-related misinformation. The most popular measure, mentioned in eight studies, was promoting and disseminating trustworthy information.11,12,15,16,22,26–28 Seven studies suggested addressing, containing or debunking misinformation... . Four studies mentioned increasing the health literacy of social media users:10,23,27,28 they highlighted the need to educate social media users on how to determine what information is reliable and to encourage them to assume personal responsibility for not circulating false information... Three studies suggested introducing policies or regulations for social media...

The most effective strategies for tackling COVID-19-related misinformation are currently not known. Although there are many ongoing attempts to correct misinformation, we were unable to identify any study that examined the effects of these attempts, such as whether they enabled people to be better informed or helped them feel safer.


Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,