Combating Covid Disinformation: The Battle Rages On

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

A front-page article in The New York Times details how the battle for combatting Covid Disinformation is far from over[i]. Indeed, it rages on.

The battle is waged on many fronts. For one, fringe Social Media sites like Gab, which carry outright lies that other Social Media platforms won’t, have sprung up. Indeed, they show no signs of letting up. As always, their defense is that they are committed to “Free Speech”. Thus, any and all attempts to control/discourage/regulate Disinformation is tantamount to the Suppression of Free Speech. This is despite of the fact that they regularly promote false and harmful remedies that are an outright danger to our health and well-being.

One of the most difficult on-going challenges is that of incorporating Behavioral Science into Medical Science Messaging.

Thus, “Experts say the spread of health misinformation — particularly on fringe social media platforms like Gab — is likely to be a lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic. And there are no easy solutions.”

A series of articles in the December issue of Scientific American represent attempts to address the issue of incorporating Behavioral Science. Unfortunately, the best they offer is the old saw of having trusted loved ones deliver the message of the need to get vaccinated and not to fall for Disinformation.[ii] They also offer gimmicks such as lotteries for getting vaccinated.

Sadly, they do not address one of the most important issues of all: combatting the barrage of fallacious arguments that have been bandied about for not getting vaccinated[iii].

Thus, while the voices of trusted loved ones are indispensable in delivering vital information, by themselves, they are not enough. They need to be aided by Medical Experts who not only can speak in plain terms, but enjoy doing so.

Talk about the difficult road ahead.

[i] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Covid Legacy: Online Spread Of Health Lies,” The New York Times, Friday, November 25, 2022, PP. A1 and A19.

[ii] Elizabeth Svoboda, “The Art of Persuasion,” Scientific American, December, 2022, PP S4-S6.

[iii] Ian I Mitroff, The Socially Responsible Organization; Lessons from Covid 19, Springer Briefs, New York, 2022.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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