COVID-19 infodemic: the role of traditional and social media
International research coordinated by the Department of Molecular Medicine of Sapienza University of Rome, in collaboration with the University of Insubria, the Blood Bank of North-Western Tuscany, Aristotle University in Greece and the Spanish University of Valencia, is investigating the role of the media in the COVID-19 pandemic. The work was presented in Clinical Microbiology and Infection, the official journal of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
The editorial summarised some of the most controversial issues of the pandemic period and the polarising attitudes of opinion leaders and scientists, both in the mainstream media and on social media. From sometimes alarmist statements on the emergence of viral variants (which is actually normal and expected for any virus) to the not always well-explained interpretation of the clinical value of certain diagnostic tests, through the controversy over the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma, to hesitations about vaccination following adverse events, even when they are very rare.
"This is a script that has unfortunately been widely repeated in Italy and elsewhere, which has ended up creating unfounded fears in the general public and, above all, significant damage to the credibility of the institutions", says Guido Antonelli of Sapienza University, work coordinator. "Scientists should tend not to accept invitations on social media and in debates indiscriminately, but to increase their engagement on official communication channels," continues Antonelli, "of course, journalists should also steer clear of any sensationalism".
The article invites the institutions to use their spokespersons as the main interlocutors with the press, the journalists to quote institutional acts rather than the statements of individual researchers, and finally, the scientists to take responsibility for their own communication without the urge to be at the centre of attention.
COVID-19 infodemics: the role of mainstream and social media - Daniele Focosi, David Navarro, Fabrizio Maggi, Emmanuel Roilides, Guido Antonelli - Clinical Microbiology and Infection 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmi.2021.08.003
Department of Molecular Medicine