Coronavirus (894) Definition of infodemic (5)

13 August, 2020

In Neil's final comment below the end of his message, he says, " I ... maintain that accurate information that is useful to the user should not be included in the definition. I think the focus indeed should be on inaccurate information."

As I mentioned in my original reply, the KM4Dev group found that the sheer volume and velocity of emerging information was the defining problem, not its accuracy. Any librarian, information scientist, journalist or other knowledge intermediary would surely agree that the glut of information that has to be parsed and analysed for value was a key element of the infodemic - whether the information was accurate or not.

I gave the example of the use of hydroxychloroquine: how would Neil and I have classified that when it was first proposed by known French biomedical researchers in what appeared to be a reputable scientific journal? We would have presumed it was accurate, I guess. And yet it is now recognized as flawed. In the normal pace of public health, we would have had time to consider this, but in an infodemic, even the President of the United States was (and still is, apparently) enjoying hydroxychloroquine with his breakfast cereal.

Speaking of whom, the BBC today reported that the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene had found that "at least 800 people died around the world because of coronavirus-related misinformation in the first three months of this year" ( Detergents can kill!

In an infodemic, it is very hard to tell if something is accurate or not. Volume and velocity are the main problems.


Chris Zielinski

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HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and