Date of Graduation

Summer 8-30-2020

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Abstract

This paper explores the misinformation phenomena surrounding COVID-19 on social media platforms and its potential impact on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. It defines the terms misinformation and disinformation and links these to recent political phenomena of “fake news” and political disinformation campaigns. It characterizes the sources of misinformation online and seeks to analyze the psycho-social and cognitive mechanisms of online misinformation spread such as source and message credibility through research on vaccine hesitancy and misinformation online during other global pandemics and resurging epidemics. Network analysis establishes that misinformation online spreads farther and faster than factual information on social media platforms. Relationships between misinformation and impact on health are explored utilizing research based in agent-based modeling techniques. It argues for the quantification and characterization of COVID-19 online misinformation in order to develop targeted interventions to vulnerable and at-risk groups using informed risk communication practices across all levels of government to mitigate disparities in COVID-19 case rates and transmission.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-19; COVID-19; Misinformation; Disinformation; Credibility; Network Analysis; Risk Communication; Crisis Communication; Health Communication

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