Michigan State professor says change in Twitter misinformation policy is a public health concern
Last month, Twitter stopped enforcing its policy that aimed to prevent COVID-19 misinformation, leaving health communication experts concerned.
One of these experts is Anjana Susarla, who studies responsible artificial intelligence and information systems at Michigan State University. She said misinformation on social media drives vaccine hesitancy, putting users exposed to false information at greater risk for diseases like COVID-19.
“Public health experts have cautioned that misinformation on social media seriously hampers progress toward herd immunity, weakening society’s ability to deal with new COVID-19 variants," Susarla said. "Studies show that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is driven by a misunderstanding of herd immunity and beliefs in conspiracy theories."
More than three-quarters of social media users have sought health information on social media platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey from the Journey of Medical Internet Research.
Susarla added that she believes social media companies should be moderating health content to ensure accuracy for users.
“They should pay some attention to how their recommendation algorithms may be amplifying some sort of misinformation,” she said. “They should also prioritize early detection of misinformation. And they also need to amplify information from credible sources of health information."