YouTube’s influence during an Infodemic

Gwenyth Mercep ’22

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Figure 1: Media platforms are catalysts for infectious news

Media platforms have equipped us with better ways to capture and disseminate news and have revolutionized our relationship with novel information. By accepting the ubiquitous and decentralized nature of the internet, we have given up many regulatory components with the heuristic information we consume on it. We are no stranger to the phenomena of information going “viral”. More often than not these infectious stories contain knowledge that evokes emotion and propels us to share. In this study, the accuracy of YouTube videos surrounding the 2015-2016 Zika virus pandemic are put to the test in pursuit of answering, “Are internet videos useful sources of information during global public health emergencies?” [1]

 

Hundred-and-one videos were retrieved from the YouTube search of “zika virus” [1]. Based on content, the videos were categorized as informative, misleading, or personal experience videos [1]. The quality and reliability of these videos were evaluated using standardized tools [1]. The rate of viewer interaction such as the number of views or shares, video length, and the sources of upload was also assessed along with their relationship to the nature of the videos [1]. Overall, 70.3% of videos were informative, while 23.8% and 5.9% of videos were misleading and related to personal anecdotes [1]. Although with shorter lengths and superior quality, informative videos had much less viewer interaction than their misleading counterparts [1].

 

In times of doubt, media platforms are flooded with information-some true, some benign, and some possibly harmful. Individuals may be more receptive to fallacy during times of uncertainty in the hope of gaining powerful insight in a sea of unpredictability. This can lead to an infodemic of misleading health news. Authentication of health information on online video platforms is necessary to control popular opinion in the right direction and promote health outcomes. Further studies are required to analyze the propensity behind increased interaction with misleading videos. This may lead to an increased understanding of the psychological response in health-related emergencies.  

 

[1]  K. Bora, et al., “Are internet videos useful sources of information during global public health emergencies? A case study of YouTube videos during the 2015–16 Zika virus pandemic”, Pathogens and Global Health 6, 1-3 (2018). DOI: 10.1080/20477724.2018.1507784

[2] Image retrieved from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/infodemic-when-unreliable-information-spreads-far-and-wide-11583430244 

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