Medical Misinformation in Polish on the World Wide Web During the COVID-19 Pandemic Period: Infodemiology Study.

Publication date: Mar 29, 2024

Although researchers extensively study the rapid generation and spread of misinformation about the novel coronavirus during the pandemic, numerous other health-related topics are contaminating the internet with misinformation that have not received as much attention. This study aims to gauge the reach of the most popular medical content on the World Wide Web, extending beyond the confines of the pandemic. We conducted evaluations of subject matter and credibility for the years 2021 and 2022, following the principles of evidence-based medicine with assessments performed by experienced clinicians. We used 274 keywords to conduct web page searches through the BuzzSumo Enterprise Application. These keywords were chosen based on medical topics derived from surveys administered to medical practitioners. The search parameters were confined to 2 distinct date ranges: (1) January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021; (2) January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. Our searches were specifically limited to web pages in the Polish language and filtered by the specified date ranges. The analysis encompassed 161 web pages retrieved in 2021 and 105 retrieved in 2022. Each web page underwent scrutiny by a seasoned doctor to assess its credibility, aligning with evidence-based medicine standards. Furthermore, we gathered data on social media engagements associated with the web pages, considering platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter. In 2022, the prevalence of unreliable information related to COVID-19 saw a noteworthy decline compared to 2021. Specifically, the percentage of noncredible web pages discussing COVID-19 and general vaccinations decreased from 57% (43/76) to 24% (6/25) and 42% (10/25) to 30% (3/10), respectively. However, during the same period, there was a considerable uptick in the dissemination of untrustworthy content on social media pertaining to other medical topics. The percentage of noncredible web pages covering cholesterol, statins, and cardiology rose from 11% (3/28) to 26% (9/35) and from 18% (5/28) to 26% (6/23), respectively. Efforts undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic to curb the dissemination of misinformation seem to have yielded positive results. Nevertheless, our analysis suggests that these interventions need to be consistently implemented across both established and emerging medical subjects. It appears that as interest in the pandemic waned, other topics gained prominence, essentially “filling the vacuum” and necessitating ongoing measures to address misinformation across a broader spectrum of health-related subjects.

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Concepts Keywords
Cardiology credibility
Pandemic credible
Twitter disinformation
EBM
evidence based medicine
fake news
false
health information
infodemic
infodemiology
information credibility
information quality
infoveillance
misinformation
online health information
online information

Semantics

Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 Pandemic
drug DRUGBANK Cholesterol
disease VO population
disease MESH Lifestyle
disease VO company
disease MESH Lung Diseases
disease MESH Tuberculosis
pathway KEGG Tuberculosis
disease MESH Infectious Diseases
disease IDO quality
disease VO vaccination
disease VO vaccine
disease MESH infections
disease VO immunization
disease MESH measles
pathway KEGG Measles
disease MESH mumps
disease MESH rubella
disease VO injection
disease VO vaccine effectiveness
disease MESH cancer
disease MESH heart attack
disease MESH stroke
disease MESH AIDS
disease MESH hypertension
disease IDO infection
drug DRUGBANK Zinc
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
pathway REACTOME Immune System
disease VO ineffective
disease MESH emergency
disease IDO process
disease VO time
drug DRUGBANK Pentaerythritol tetranitrate

Original Article

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