Over a quarter of the most-viewed YouTube videos related to COVID-19 contain “misleading information”, garnering over 62 million views worldwide, said a study. The data published online by BMJ Global Health comes as a massive setback especially at a time when governments and other agencies are working to combat false and inaccurate information related to the pandemic.
The researchers performed a YouTube search on March 21, 2020, using keywords ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’ and analysed top 75 viewed videos. They excluded the content which was duplicate, non-English, non-audio and non-visual, exceeding 1 hour in duration, live and unrelated to COVID-19.
They found that that 19 videos out of 69 included for the analysis contained non-factual information totalling over 62 million views. The researchers also concluded that videos from reputable sources remain under-represented during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They have also identified the strategies that can be employed by government and public health agencies to increase the viewership of their factual content.
Fake news and misinformation have become a major hindrance in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The study said that successful management of pandemic depends on the effective dissemination of factual information and YouTube has tremendous potential to both support and hinder public health efforts.
“As the current COVID-19 pandemic worsens, public health agencies must better use YouTube to deliver timely and accurate information and to minimise the spread of misinformation,” the researcher implied.
Earlier, US tech giants including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, had assured in a statement that they are working closely together on the novel coronavirus response efforts. In the joint industry statement, the tech giants said that they are jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the coronavirus.
“We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also...elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world,” read the statement.
Instagram Communications had said in a series of tweets that they were removing known harmful misinformation related to COVID-19. It said that if someone taps on a hashtag related to COVID-19, it will show resources from the World Health Organisation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local health authorities.
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