The study reveals that more than one in four of the most viewed videos related to COVID-19 on YouTube in English contain misleading or false information. The findings of the study are published in BMJ Global Health. Researchers warned that public health misinformation on the novel coronavirus is reaching far more people than in any pandemics in past and has considerable potential for harm. While accurate information provided by government and experts is broadly accessible on YouTube, it’s often difficult to understand and lacks popular appeal, so doesn’t have the reach it needs.
Published research reveals that YouTube has been both a useful and misleading source of information in previously occurred public health crises, such as the swine flu (HIN1), Spanish flu pandemic and the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. But social media use has changed a lot since these studies were published. Researchers added that not all of them used approved measuring tools.
For trying and providing the more current assessment of the quality and accuracy of the information on the novel coronavirus on YouTube, the experts have searched the digital platform for the most viewed and related videos as of 21 March 2020. Nearly half of the initial number (69 out of 150; 46%) was eligible for analysis after excluding the duplicates, in other languages, lasted more than one hour and didn’t contain visual or audio content.
The reliability and quality of the contents were assessed by using validated measuring systems such as mJAMA and mDISCERN. While the usefulness of content for an average viewer was evaluated by using a COVID-19 specific score (CSS), modelled on similar scoring systems which are developed for use in such public health crises.
A CSS point was granted for only real data on every one of the following: the spread of the virus, typical sign and symptoms, possible medication, prevention and epidemiology. Expert and government agency recordings scored altogether higher for quality, accuracy, and usability across all measures than any of different sources, however, didn’t feature prominently among review figures. The number of viewers for the 69 videos that were included in the analysis is up to 257, 804,146.
Inaccurate and misleading information included CSS criteria, for instance, the conviction that pharmaceutical companies are already having the cure but they have refused to sell it, or that some countries have stronger strains of the novel coronavirus; inappropriate recommendations for the public; discriminatory and racists remarks; and different conspiracy theories
Researchers said as the power of social media lies in the sheer volume and diversity of information being created and spread; it has immense potential for harm. The researchers write that it is quite alarming while considering the huge viewership of such videos.
Experts acknowledge that they relied on information gathered just in one day, and included the content which was in the English language. But the video views in the analysis far surpass those that were reported in other YouTube studies on public health crises or pandemics.
The engagement and education of the public are important in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring understanding of public health measure and therefore follow them. Given the power of social media in moulding public behaviour and understanding, YouTube is an incredible, powerful educational tool that must be better mobilized by health care professionals.
Many existing marketing strategies are static, in the form of given guidelines, infographics and statistical report may not be as engaging or accessible to the public. Public health and government bodies would do well to work together with entertainment news and influencers on social media to energize their digital content and engage a much wider audience for countering the false information circulating during this coronavirus pandemic.