Evaluating the Impact of Attempts to Correct Health Misinformation on Social Media

10 August, 2020

With thanks to Irina Ibraghimova and LRC Network. Citation, abstract and comment from me below.

CITATION: Evaluating the Impact of Attempts to Correct Health Misinformation on Social Media: A Meta-Analysis

Nathan Walter, John J. Brooks, Camille J. Saucier & Sapna Suresh

Health Communication ; Published online: 06 Aug 2020



Social media poses a threat to public health by facilitating the spread of misinformation. At the same time, however, social media offers a promising avenue to stem the distribution of false claims – as evidenced by real-time corrections, crowdsourced fact-checking, and algorithmic tagging. Despite the growing attempts to correct misinformation on social media, there is still considerable ambiguity regarding the ability to effectively ameliorate the negative impact of false messages. To address this gap, the current study uses a meta-analysis to evaluate the relative impact of social media interventions designed to correct health-related misinformation (k = 24; N = 6,086). Additionally, the meta-analysis introduces theory-driven moderators that help delineate the effectiveness of social media interventions. The mean effect size of attempts to correct misinformation on social media was positive and significant (d = 0.40, 95% CI [0.25, 0.55], p =.0005) and a publication bias could not be excluded. Interventions were more effective in cases where participants were involved with the health topic, as well as when misinformation was distributed by news organizations (vs. peers) and debunked by experts (vs. non-experts). The findings of this meta-analysis can be used not only to depict the current state of the literature but also to prescribe specific recommendations to better address the proliferation of health misinformation on social media.


The authors conclude: 'The vast majority of corrective interventions are at least somewhat successful in diminishing the impact of misinformation'. It will be interesting now to study the effectiveness of this piecemeal approach as compared with systemic approaches to address misinformation. A systemic approach would empower users to recognise misinformation as and when it occurs, or - at least - to know where they can be sure to find reliable information. I am thinking, for example of the HON Code of the Health on the Net Foundation, as well as the efforts some years ago by HIFA members and others to make .Health a trusted top-level domain (these efforts were trumped by commercial interests, and .Health is now commercially owned).

What do you think?

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare In

formation For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with almost 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese). Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org