The spread of “fake news” has been an issue of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. From speculation on the origin of the virus to the promotion of unproven prevention methods and cures, a great deal of false and harmful information has been published—particularly on social media platforms.
“Unreliable and false information is spreading around the world to such an extent, that some commentators are now referring to the new avalanche of misinformation that’s accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘disinfodemic,’” the United Nations (UN) News reported in early April.
In the same article, Guy Berger, Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is quoted as saying, “When disinformation is repeated and amplified, including by influential people, the grave danger is that information which is based on truth, ends up having only marginal impact.”
Twitter is attempting to implement tools that flag false information, but the search for verified health information is an emerging opportunity for scholarly publications. As this post at the Scholarly Kitchen blog explains, consumers may trust information from healthcare researchers more than they trust information from social media and news outlets. The authors suggest that scholarly journals should make appealing to broad audiences a goal and make information accessible for lay readers. For example, journals can repurpose published peer-reviewed articles into engaging—and accurate—digital stories in various forms. Such efforts will help counteract the spread of fake news and will also enhance the accessibility of scholarly publications.
We like this idea. We have promoted our peer-reviewed articles via Twitter and blog post for several years now and plan to continue. The summer issue of the Ochsner Journal, scheduled for publication in mid-June, will contain a number of COVID-19–related articles. We look forward to sharing them.