Inoculating an Infodemic: An ecological approach to understanding engagement with COVID-19 online information. 

  • Under review, American Behavioral Scientist

Abstract: As the global COVID-19 pandemic has been concurrently labelled an “infodemic,” researchers have sought to improve how the general public engages with information that is relevant, timely, and accurate. In this study we provide an overview of the reasons why people engage and disengage with COVID-19 information. We use context-rich semi-structured interviews which invited participants to discuss online COVID-19 related content they encountered. This qualitative approach allows us to uncover subtle but important details of influences that drive online engagement. Our findings suggest that researchers and public health communicators should approach engagement as an ecology of intersecting influences, both human and algorithmic, which occur over time. This information could be potentially helpful to public health communicators who are trying to engage the public with the best information to keep them safe during the pandemic. 

Vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic: A health communication strategy that uses narrative intervention

  • Under review, Health Communication

Abstract: Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine hesitancy and vaccine misinformation were a substantial public health threat. This paper proposes a health communication strategy for developing interventions into vaccine misinformation and hesitancy through the use of narrative. In particular, we suggest developing interventions that rely upon the narrative effect of transportation as a means to increase the persuasion of messaging around vaccines, and that key element of transportation includes orientation towards particular audiences. Given that mothers are the most significant household decision-makers with respect to vaccines and health in general, we suggest narrative interventions should be tailored specifically to meet their interests and tastes, and that this may be different for mothers of different backgrounds and cultural communities.

COVID-19 misinformation differences in responses to public health content on Twitter and YouTube: Implications for research practice

  • Under review, Journal of Information Technology & Politics

Abstract: We collected tweets directed at the official Twitter account of the Canadian Public Health Office as well as comments to a Canadian Public Health Office press conference posted to YouTube. We used a mixed method corpus-assisted discourse analysis approach to categorize and analyze these data. We found key differences between comments directed at the public health office on each platform, namely a higher level of aggressive language in YouTube comments, and more balance in Twitter mentions. Findings suggest that studying COVID-19 misinformation on one platform in isolation does not provide an accurate picture of misinformation. To generate a fuller picture of misinformation, researchers should conduct studies across digital platforms using diverse methods. This research could influence how misinformation studies of health communication are approached in the future.  

Trust in global health crisis communication: Validity claims and the credibility of COVID-19 information on social media

  • Under review, Information, Communication and Society

During COVID-19 lockdowns, people have turned to digital communication platforms for health related information (United Nations, 2020). The challenges that such a broad shift to online participation entail have been magnified as a result of the spread of misinformation (Love, Blumenberg, & Horowitz, 2020). As a result, citizens have had to develop strategies to assess what information they should follow. To examine the strategies individuals use to assess the credibility of COVID-19 information, this paper draws on elicitation interviews. We explored the relationship between credibility and Habermas’ validity claims. Results indicate that most participants used all three validity claims (truth, rightness, and sincerity) at some point when assessing the credibility of online COVID-19-related information and often used multiple claims at once, suggesting that the assessment of the credibility of health information is based on multiple objective and subjective factors. Participants also offered different linguistic cues when discussing truth rather than discussing rightness cues, suggesting that an assessment of rightness as a measure of credibility is a more emotional process. Overall this paper demonstrates the usefulness of validity claims for understanding why certain types of online COVID-19 communications are perceived as more credible than others.

The health belief model: How public health can address the misinformation crisis beyond COVID-19

  • Under review, Public Health in Practice

This paper proposes an intervention into health misinformation that relies upon the health belief model as a means to bridge the risks associated with health misinformation and the impact on individual health, beyond the current recommendations for fact checking and information literacy Study design: This is a short theoretical paper. Conclusions: Misinformation researchers and public health practitioners and communicators can benefit using the infrastructures afforded by public health offices to mobilize the health belief model as a site for misinformation education.

Blog: How do people assess the credibility of COVID-19 related information? Personal beliefs a strong influence

In January 2021, we wrote a guest blog post for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences sharing some of our research and early findings. It offers brief comments on two specific topics:

  • Assessing the credibility of COVID-19 information online, and
  • What can public health communicators do?

Read the blog here:

Report: COVID-19 Misinformation in Canada

In spring of 2020, we compiled the findings of five studies of COVID-19 misinformation in Canada. This report synthesizes the preliminary findings of these studies. It focuses on two specific areas:

• the extent to which Canadians are exposed to COVID-19 misinformation online, and

• the extent to which Canadians are believing misinformation.

Access the full report by downloading it here: