Digital Health

Social Media Mis- and Dis-Information

patient video chatting with doctor on a tablet.


Ana Aleksandric, PhD student, The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), HIMSS TIGER Intern, HIMSS; Shenita R. Freeman, DSc, MSHIA, MPH, RHIA, CPHIMS, HCISPP, CPH, Senior Director, Analytics & Informatics, Centurion, HIMSS TIGER International Task Force Volunteer; Toria Shaw Morawski, MSW, HIMSS TIGER Staff Liaison; Gabriela Mustata Wilson, PhD, Co-Director, UTA, Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics (MICHI), HIMSS TIGER International Task Force Co-Chair; and Michael Gaspar, Savvy Cooperative



Social media represents platforms used for networking and sharing posts with other users. However, many users leverage social media as information resources (Shearer & Mitchell, 2021). This includes peer-to-peer provider education, health promotion, and healthcare providers sharing scientific and sometimes critical information with the public (Farsi, 2021). Therefore, such platforms help users gain an understanding of public opinion about certain events, as well as the impact of misinformation spread over the network. Misinformation is “false or inaccurate information that is deliberately created and intentionally or unintentionally propagated” (Wu et al., 2019). Disinformation is “intentionally false and misleading information shared with the goal of causing harm”; disinformation sources include members of the general public, celebrities, adversarial nation states, criminal organizations, human-trafficking rings, bots, trolls, public and/or governmental officials, and more (al Khaja et al., 2018; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2022).


Mis- and dis-information propagated on social media attempts to mislead people by creating chaos around manipulated narratives. For example, linking coronavirus to 5G networks or touting false coronavirus prevention methods related to drinking or gargling cow urine or Hennessy to prevent the infection from reaching the lungs (Posetti & Bontcheva, 2022; Kenya: Hennessy clarifies its drink cannot protect from Covid-19 after influential politician distributes drink to poor claiming it has healing properties, n.d.). Mis- and dis-information use at least four formats in the media according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1) false claims that evoke strong emotion, (2) fabricated authoritative figures and websites, (3) fabricated, fraudulently altered, and/or decontextualized images and videos, and (4) artificial amplification of orchestrated campaigns through the use of bots and trolls (Posetti & Bontcheva, 2022). It can be difficult to identify sources of quality medical information, and the spread of false and fraudulent information is a threat to the education of society about ongoing public health interventions and, in some instances, can lead to intervention hesitancy. Additional studies are crucial in providing scientific facts to improve the understanding of the impact of social media activity to reduce intervention hesitancy. Spreading misinformation across the network represents a big threat to public health, and there is an urgent need to educate the public about the benefits of ongoing interventions.