The COVID-19 outbreak, caused by a new virus that has many unknowns, has led to an excessive demand for information across the globe. In response to this demand, an explosion of information on COVID-19 occurred on many platforms, followed by an "infodemic". In this policy paper, Prof. Dr. Sibel Sakarya and Intern Dr. Gizem Uzunköprü discuss the sources and the consequences of infodemic, analyze the current situation in Turkey and offer policy recommendations for solutions.
Infodemic, which is defined as excessive amount of information concerning a problem that makes the solution difficult, appears as a problem that requires control and good management with scientific methods similar to pandemic measures themselves. Public debates on infodemic and increased awareness of this issue will guide both health professionals and the community in terms of accessing qualified and reliable information.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the sources and the consequences of infodemic and unsupervised-easily accessible health information specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article analyzes the current situation in Turkey, compares it with experiences in other countries and provides policy recommendations for solutions.
False or mis-leading information in the field of health is failing not only specific audiences but, also the societies at large. There are many factors as to why false information spreads easily, such as their attractive format, the excessive demand for information during a pandemic, ease of dissemination of information on online platforms, financial incentives, and a lack of legal supervision.
Exposure to this excessive and uncontrolled information negatively affects individuals' mental health, daily life, and health behavior; it is also known to cause unnecessary use of health and social service, discrimination and violence.
Producing and disseminating factual knowledge and accurate information, partnering with frequently used media platforms, working with media and journalists, mobilizing civil society, and speaking out for rights are strategies recommended for fighting ‘infodemic’ of misinformation. In addition, interventions should be developed at the community level to achieve a level of health literacy where individuals can distinguish between qualified and unqualified information, critically appraise, and evaluate that information and make informed health decisions.
Click here to access the policy paper (available only in Turkish).