Health

Twitter health amplifiers combat COVID-19 misinformation

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When false information about COVID-19 began spreading on Twitter, doctors and scientists from Northwestern Medicine joined forces to fight the deadly misinformation and disinformation. They also supported each other when they were eventually attacked online.

They formed a new type of professional organization—the health professional amplifier—to tweet accurate health and safety information about COVID-19 and amplify one another “to combat misinformation and drown out some of the noise,” said Dr. Regina Royan, first author of a new Northwestern Medicine paper explaining the genesis of these groups and a member of the Illinois-based health professional amplifier, IMPACT (Illinois Medical Professional Action Collaborative Team), which uses the verified Twitter handle @IMPACT4HC.

The paper was published in the July 22 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet ResearchRoyan and other medical professionals explain why this group has been so successful and why it is an effective tool for disseminating accurate medical information and fighting disinformation. They also minimize the risk of harassment and personal attacks that can be associated with social media advocacy.

Royan, an emergency medicine researcher and clinical instructor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg Schools of Medicine, said that the pandemic was very taxing for health professionals. “In addition the emotional toll of caring to these very sick patients, especially during the initial waves of the pandemic,” Royan, emergency medicine research fellow and clinical instructor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said that the politicization of COVID-19 added to our stress levels. We highlight one thing in this paper: these types of groups can be a safe place for health professionals to discuss issues such as harassment on social media to continue the fight against misinformation.”

Royan stated that IMPACT and other health profession amplifiers are made up of health economists, nurses, scientists, public health professionals, physicians, and health care professionals. After posting scientifically-proven medical information about COVID-19 and vaccines, they have been subject to harassment and attacks.

IMPACT has also created many easy to understand infographics in English as well as Spanish about specific issues. These include the effectiveness of masking or social distancing, how mRNA was used in the creation of Moderna COVID-19, and Pfizer BioNTech. Royan explained that the group uses this creative approach to reach people who may not be able read accurate health information.

Royan stated that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the Latino population. Royan said that it was important to partner with community organizations such as Illinois Unidos in order to address misinformation with Spanish-language resources.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the group has begun to combat false information regarding reproductive health issues. They have also begun disseminating information on firearm injury, such a tweet that stated “Fact: Mental illness does not provide a reliable predictor of gun violence against other people.”


Countering misinformation regarding COVID-19 shots in young children


More information:
Regina Royan et. al. Use of Twitter amplifiers by medical professionals to combat misinformation during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Medical Internet Research (2022). DOI: 10.2196/38324

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Northwestern University


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Twitter health amplifiers combat COVID-19 misinformation (2022 July 25)
Retrieved 5 Aug 2022
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