Novel coronavirus (142) Debunking COVID-19 misinformation with friends and family

17 March, 2020

Hi everyone,

I have been following the conversations about COVID-19 and have found this platform so useful, especially at this time. I am grateful to be part of this community of practice.

I was particularly interested in Lucie Byrne-Davis's March 1 message about Susan Michie's BMJ blog post on studying the behavioral science of COVID-19

(https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/02/28/behavioural-science-must-be-at-the-...). In the spirit of discussing this, I hope you will all indulge me to share a personal story.

As many of us probably are, I am part of a Whatsapp group with dozens of my family members. Someone in my family shared a message purportedly from a Stanford University doctor about how we can protect ourselves from COVID-19. Some of the claims seemed strange to me, so I looked it up. Right away, I found multiple sites talking about the false advice within this post. Here is one such site:

https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/viral-social-media-posts-offer-false-c....

The message seems to be similar to the ones that Wendie Norris (March 11) and Julie N. Reza (March 5) shared from a "someone with a master's degree who worked at Shenzhen Hospital."

Needless to say, I responded on the family group that unfortunately this is incorrect, and that we should try to stick to WHO/CDC and other reputable sites. This family member became offended, defending why he had shared that message -- that it came from "someone he trusted."

Often, we talk about lack of information in places without internet, or in a lower educated groups. But of course, misinformation commonly occurs among highly educated people as well. And posts that seem that they come from a reputable source are particularly insidious. We are so quick to share something without fact checking first. I believe that we need to share correct information as quickly as possible, and that egos really have no place in a pandemic. But I am wondering if this is a part of the behavioral conversation -- how can people be encouraged to use safe sources of information? And what is the best way to debunk what someone has shared?

Thank you.

HIFA profile: Amelia Abdelrazik is the Portfolio & Impact Manager at Preston-Werner Ventures, a San Francisco-based foundation looking to create scalable impact at the intersection of climate change and social justice. Amelia specializes in sexual reproductive health and rights, focusing on family planning information & access. She is currently based in Cairo, Egypt. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Family Planning and the HIFA wg on Community Health Workers.

http://www.hifa.org/support/members/amelia

http://www.hifa.org/projects/family-planning

apabdelrazik AT gmail.com