This project builds on existing data science to understand the extent to which credible public health information is outweighed by false content on social media and measure the effectiveness of public health communication responses in real‐time.

Overview

The pandemic has shown how public health depends on the availability of high‐quality medical information and clear and convincing communication on topics such as vaccines. Trusted and effective communication is a vital part of the overall public health effort to combat the virus. The spread of COVID‐19 depends in large part on the sum of individual decisions made by millions: will they wash their hands, wear face masks, self‐isolate if showing symptoms, and take a vaccine if it becomes available? Social media is a major means of reaching these individuals. Yet we know that social media is also full of misleading rumours and false information, which can undermine public trust in official messages.

Policymakers and health practitioners urgently need to develop a capacity to identify the data deficits. They need to measure and understand the topics where there is a lack of quality information about COVID‐19, vaccines, and related health news. This project will build on the Oxford Internet Institute’s existing expertise on misinformation to create tools and knowledge that will empower health authorities, scientists, and the public sector to communicate health information effectively and rebut disinformation when it occurs. Our analysis will also help identify the data deficits, or areas where a lack of quality information fosters misinformation. We will work closely with health authorities to support them in communicating proactively where it matters, instead of focusing solely on reactive debunking. The project will help to build back better by contributing to a healthier, more resilient health information landscape after the pandemic.

People