COVID-19 Misinformation Spreading Faster Than The Virus

False information about the Coronavirus Pandemic has become a pandemic in its own right. Paranoid conspiracy theories are only a part of this landscape, as there are also well-intended individuals/groups who are spreading misinformation.
Covid-19 misinformation has become so significant that the WHO (World Health Organization) recently joined forces with the UK (United Kingdom) government in order to counter the problem.

What makes these stories dangerous is that the false information is typically mixed together with factual information. This is purposefully designed to further confuse the reader, who might thereby assume that the whole story is accurate, based on only parts of the story coming from reliable sources.
The spreading of misinformation can be as dangerous as a virus, hence the term “gone viral.”  Fact-Checking the source before sharing the information can help prevent the spread.  The following link was specifically created for Covid-19 Fact-Checking.

Authoritative sources can be trusted because they have already been vetted and are usually peer-reviewed prior to publication.  Government agencies, such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), NIH (National Institute of Health), as well as scientific publications, such as the New England or British Journals of Medicine, the Lancet, etc., are examples of trusted sources.  Additionally, these entities are required to disclose when they publish data that has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Much of the misinformation about Covid-19 is based on skepticism about the credibility and motives of our government and various scientific authorities.  Skepticism can be useful when founded in logic and properly vetted information, otherwise it can fall into the classification of paranoia.  The spread of paranoid theories gains momentum by raising doubts about the trustworthiness of the authorities that we depend on for our information and security.  Uncertainty engenders fear and anxiety, which impairs our ability to think rationally.  This makes us vulnerable to fall prey to conspiracy theories.

For an excellent discussion of how to evaluate an argument as scientifically worthy, see Dr. Peter Atia’s recent post, “The Importance of Red Teams.”

My favorite line from this article pertains to Dr. Atul Gawande.  In his 2016 Caltech commencement address, Atul Gawande highlighted five hallmark traits of pseudoscientists: (1) conspiracy, (2) cherry-picking the data, (3) producing fake experts, (4) moving the goalposts, and (5) deploying false analogies and other logical fallacies.  “When you see several or all of these tactics deployed,” said Gawande, “you know that you’re not dealing with a scientific claim anymore.”

To delve a little deeper into the coronavirus pandemic, our Covid-Page provides a volume of authoritative governmental and peer-reviewed scientific resources, and a variety of international sources of credible information about Covid-19.  We update this site regularly given the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic.

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We welcome questions and comments and will do our best to provide accurate and meaningful responses.

Justin Groode MD | Patient Advocate Alliance LLC

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