Just How Reliable Is COVID-19 Information on the Internet?
By CHAR ADAMS
“Coronavirus” has been a trending search term online since March, with people everywhere relying on various websites for up-to-date information about COVID-19. But misinformation often runs rampant on the web, raising questions about the reliability of online guidance and data related to COVID-19.
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy Professor Ashish Joshi, who also serves as senior associate dean of student and academic affairs, led a study to determine the quality of coronavirus information on the Internet. The study was published in The Scientific World Journal.
“Public health experts worry that the spread of COVID-19 [is] worsened by misinformation,” the authors wrote in the study. “Experts suggest that false or even dangerous information about what can protect individuals during the pandemic is being disseminated at an alarming rate.”
The researchers used several tools to evaluate the quality of COVID-19-related health information on 48 websites. They found the sites using the search terms “Coronavirus,” “Coronavirus causes,” “Coronavirus diagnosis,” “Coronavirus prevention,” and “Coronavirus management.”
The authors found that there is a lack of websites disseminating quality, useful information about COVID-19. Sites like .gov, .edu, and .org scored high on the quality scale while .com websites scored lowest.
“These findings highlight the gaps in the quality of COVID-19 information available on the web,” Joshi told CUNY SPH. “It emphasizes the need for verified websites that provide evidence-based health information related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are working with the World Health Organization to address the spread of “misinformation,” the authors note. They also suggest that websites “develop and provide a clear statement of purpose” before sharing COVID-19 information.