Special Issue "Health Misinformation on Social Media"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Communication and Informatics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Marco Viviani
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Informatics, Systems, and Communication (DISCo)
Interests: social media analytics; information retrieval; trust and reputation; information credibility assessment; multicriteria decision making; aggregation operators
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue entitled: "Health Misinformation on Social Media" in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The venue is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes articles and communications in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health. For detailed information on the journal, please refer to https://0-www-mdpi-com.brum.beds.ac.uk/journal/ijerph.

Today, the success of the Social Web and the massive use of social media is making an increasingly large number of people rely on information diffused on these applications. In fact, in recent years, we have witnessed the explosion of so-called User-Generated Content (UGC), i.e., content diffused by users on social media without almost any traditional form of control of its quality or veracity by reputable third parties. This can represent a problem especially in the health scenario, in which a large portion of people seeks health-related information. This is particularly true in the current situation, characterized by the spread of unverified and low-credibility content about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior research indicates that medical professionals do not author an extensive amount of health-related information available on social media. This creates the conditions for spreading false, inaccurate or misleading health-related information, thereby potentially leading ill people away from proper care.

Therefore, the aim of this Special Issue is to address and investigate this problem by assessing perceptions of credibility about health-related information found on social media, under different perspectives. For example, by analyzing the Social Web for identifying suitable sources of health-related information (blogs, microblogs, question-answering systems, etc.); evaluating the impact of health misinformation; studying and implementing models for the credibility assessment of the acquired health-related information from social media; and studying and implementing models for the prevention of health misinformation diffusion in social media.

This Special Issue is aimed at scholars and researchers involved in different research areas, from medical informatics to sociology to medicine, confirming the interdisciplinary character of the journal.

Keywords

  • COVID-19 and health misinformation about the pandemic
  • Crowdsourcing and health information/misinformation assessment
  • Decision-making in dealing with health information/misinformation
  • Filter bubbles and echo chambers in the diffusion of health misinformation
  • Health and media literacy
  • Health information retrieval
  • Impact of health misinformation in social media
  • Knowledge-bases applied to health information credibility
  • Models and technologies for health information credibility assessment
  • Models and technologies to prevent health misinformation diffusion
  • Recommending genuine health information
  • Social Web and health information diffusion

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Article
Spanish-Language News Consumption and Latino Reactions to COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(18), 9629; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18189629 - 13 Sep 2021
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Abstract
While the literature on infectious disease outbreaks has examined the extent to which communication inequalities during public health emergencies exacerbate negative outcomes among disadvantaged individuals, the implications of ethnic media consumption among minority groups during these crises are underexplored. Making use of the [...] Read more.
While the literature on infectious disease outbreaks has examined the extent to which communication inequalities during public health emergencies exacerbate negative outcomes among disadvantaged individuals, the implications of ethnic media consumption among minority groups during these crises are underexplored. Making use of the first nationally representative survey of US Latinos (N = 1200) on the impact and reactions to COVID-19, this study examines the implications of Spanish-language news media consumption on source credibility and attitude formation during the COVID-19 pandemic among Latinos and immigrants from Latin America. Through a series of statistical analyses, this study finds that ethnic news consumption is strongly associated with trust in Spanish-language journalists, whereas mainstream media consumption is not associated with trust in English-language journalists. More importantly, this study finds that source credibility, particularly in Spanish-language journalists, matters for Latinos as it is associated with more positive assessments of state and local officials providing adequate information about COVID-19. This study illuminates the importance of non-traditional media among racial minorities, who account for almost 40% of the US population, and highlights the importance of shared backgrounds in source credibility among linguistically diverse groups in the United States during a public health crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Article
The Presumed Influence of COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media: Survey Research from Two Countries in the Global Health Crisis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(11), 5505; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18115505 - 21 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1201
Abstract
While the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is spreading all over the world, misinformation, without prudent journalistic judgments of media content online, has begun circulating rapidly and influencing public opinion on social media. This quantitative study intends to advance the previous misinformation research by [...] Read more.
While the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is spreading all over the world, misinformation, without prudent journalistic judgments of media content online, has begun circulating rapidly and influencing public opinion on social media. This quantitative study intends to advance the previous misinformation research by proposing and examining a theoretical model following an “influence of presumed influence” perspective. Two survey studies were conducted on participants located in the United States (N = 1793) and China (N = 504), respectively, to test the applicability of the influence of presumed influence theory. Results indicated that anger and anxiety significantly predicted perceived influence of misinformation on others; presumed influence on others positively affected public support in corrective and restrictive actions in both U.S. and China. Further, anger toward misinformation led to public willingness to self-correct in the U.S. and China. In contrast, anxiety only took effects in facilitating public support for restrictive actions in the U.S. This study conducted survey research in China and the U.S. to expand the influence of presumed influence (IPI) hypothesis to digital misinformation in both Western and non-Western contexts. This research provides implications for social media companies and policy makers to combat misinformation online. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Article
Does Science Literacy Guarantee Resistance to Health Rumors? The Moderating Effect of Self-Efficacy of Science Literacy in the Relationship between Science Literacy and Rumor Belief
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2243; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18052243 - 24 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1139
Abstract
Health rumors not only incite unnecessary fears and skepticism, but may also cause individuals to refuse effective remedy and thus delay their treatment. Studies have found that health literacy may help the public identify the falsity of health rumors and avoid their negative [...] Read more.
Health rumors not only incite unnecessary fears and skepticism, but may also cause individuals to refuse effective remedy and thus delay their treatment. Studies have found that health literacy may help the public identify the falsity of health rumors and avoid their negative impact. However, whether other types of literacy work in helping people disbelieve health rumors is still unknown. With a national survey in China (N = 1646), our study examined the effect of science literacy on rumor belief and further analyzed the moderating role of self-efficacy of science literacy in their relationship. Hierarchical regression analysis showed that science literacy significantly decreased the likelihood of people believing in health rumors, and moderator analysis showed that self-efficacy of science literacy plays a moderating role in this relationship; such that the relationship between science literacy and health rumor belief would be weakened if one′s self-efficacy of science literacy was low. This finding reveals that during campaigns to combat health rumors, improving and enhancing the self-efficacy of people′s science literacy is an effective way to prevent them from believing in health rumors. Our study highlights the benefits of science education in public health and the improvement of public science literacy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Article
Sources of COVID-19-Related Information in People with Various Levels of Risk Perception and Preventive Behaviors in Taiwan: A Latent Profile Analysis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 2091; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18042091 - 21 Feb 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1075
Abstract
The present study aimed to identify the distinct levels of risk perception and preventive behaviors during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak among people in Taiwan and to examine the roles of information sources in various levels of risk perception and preventive behavior. [...] Read more.
The present study aimed to identify the distinct levels of risk perception and preventive behaviors during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak among people in Taiwan and to examine the roles of information sources in various levels of risk perception and preventive behavior. The online survey recruited 1984 participants through a Facebook advertisement. Their self-reported risk perception, adopted preventive behaviors and COVID-19-related information were collected. We analyzed individuals’ risk perception and adopted preventive behaviors by using latent profile analysis and conducted multinomial logistic regression of latent class membership on COVID-19-related information sources. Four latent classes were identified, including the risk neutrals with high preventive behaviors, the risk exaggerators with high preventive behaviors, the risk deniers with moderate preventive behaviors, and the risk deniers with low preventive behaviors. Compared with the risk neutrals, the risk exaggerators with high preventive behaviors were more likely to obtain COVID-19 information from multiple sources, whereas the risk deniers with moderate preventive behaviors and risk deniers with low preventive behaviors were less likely to obtain COVID-19 information compared with the risk neutrals. Governments and health professions should take the variety of risk perception and adopted preventive behaviors into consideration when disseminating information on COVID-19 to the general public. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Article
How COVID-19 Changed the Information Needs of Italian Citizens
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 6988; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17196988 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1300
Abstract
Italy was the first European country to be affected by COVID-19, facing an unprecedented situation. The reaction required drastic solutions and highly restrictive measures, which severely tested the trust of the Italian people. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the introduced measures was not only [...] Read more.
Italy was the first European country to be affected by COVID-19, facing an unprecedented situation. The reaction required drastic solutions and highly restrictive measures, which severely tested the trust of the Italian people. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the introduced measures was not only linked to political decisions, but also to the choice of the Italian people to trust and rely on institutions, accepting such necessary measures. In this context, the role of information sources was fundamental, since they strongly influence public opinion. The central focus of this research was to assess the information seeking behavior (ISB) of the Italian citizens, to understand how they related to information and how their specific use of information influenced public opinion. By making use of a survey addressed to 4260 Italian citizens, we identified extraordinarily virtuous behavior in the population: people strongly modified their ISB in order to address the most reliable sources. In particular, we found a very high reliance on scientists, which is particularly striking, if compared to the past. Moreover, starting from the survey results, we used social simulation to estimate the evolution of public opinion. Comparing the ISB during and before COVID-19, we discovered that the shift in the ISB, during the pandemic, may have actually positively influenced public opinion, facilitating the acceptance of the costly restrictions introduced. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Review

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Review
Health Misinformation about Toxic-Site Harm: The Case for Independent-Party Testing to Confirm Safety
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 3882; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18083882 - 07 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 818 | Correction
Abstract
Health misinformation can cause harm if regulators or private remediators falsely claim that a hazardous facility is safe. This misinformation especially threatens the health of children, minorities, and poor people, disproportionate numbers of whom live near toxic facilities. Yet, perhaps because of financial [...] Read more.
Health misinformation can cause harm if regulators or private remediators falsely claim that a hazardous facility is safe. This misinformation especially threatens the health of children, minorities, and poor people, disproportionate numbers of whom live near toxic facilities. Yet, perhaps because of financial incentives, private remediators may use safety misinformation to justify reduced cleanup. Such incentives exist in nations like the United States, where most toxic-site testing/remediation is semi-privatized or voluntary, conducted by private parties, commercial redevelopers, who can increase profits by underestimating health harm, thus decreasing required testing/remediation. Our objective is to begin to determine whether or not interested parties misrepresent health harm (at hazardous facilities that they test/remediate/redevelop) when they use traditional and social media to claim that these sites are safe. Our hypothesis is that, contrary to the safety claims of the world’s largest commercial developer, Coldwell Banker Real Estate/Trammell Crow (CBRE/TCC), the authors’ screening assessment, especially its lab-certified, toxic-site, indoor-air tests, show violations of all three prominent government, cancer-safety benchmarks. If so, these facilities require additional testing/remediation, likely put site renters at risk, and may reveal problems with privatized hazardous cleanup. To our knowledge, we provide the first independent tests of privatized, toxic-site assessments before cancer reports occur. Our screening assessment of this hypothesis tests indoor air in rental units on a prominent former weapons-testing site (the US Naval Ordnance Testing Station, Pasadena, California (NOTSPA) that is subject to carcinogenic vapor intrusion by volatile organic compounds, VOCs), then compares test results to the redeveloper’s site-safety claims, made to government officials and citizens through traditional and social media. Although NOTSPA toxic soil-gas concentrations are up to nearly a million times above allowed levels, and indoor air was never tested until now, both the regulator and the remediator (CBRE/TCC) have repeatedly claimed on social media that “the site is safe at this time.” We used mainly Method TO-17 and two-week sampling with passive, sorbent tubes to assess indoor-air VOCs. Our results show that VOC levels at every location sampled—all in occupied site-rental units—violate all three government-mandated safety benchmarks: environmental screening levels (ESLs), No Significant Risk Levels (NSRLs), and inhalation risks based on the Inhalation Unit Risk (IUR); some violations are two orders of magnitude above multiple safety benchmarks. These results support our hypothesis and suggest a need for independent assessment of privatized cleanups and media-enhanced safety claims about them. If our results can be replicated at other sites, then preventing health misinformation and toxic-facility safety threats may require new strategies, one of which we outline. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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Other

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Correction
Correction: Shrader-Frechette, K.; Biondo, A.M. Health Misinformation about Toxic-Site Harm: The Case for Independent-Party Testing to Confirm Safety. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3882
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(18), 9796; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18189796 - 17 Sep 2021
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Abstract
Because part of the text was unintentionally omitted, the first paragraph under Section 2.2.4.3. on p. 13 was jumbled and incomplete when it was published [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Misinformation on Social Media)
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