4 mistakes to avoid when combating health disinformation

Disinformation remains a major threat to democracy and public health, but many leaders of the fight against it are making familiar mistakes, The Atlantic reported April 21. Here are four mistakes to avoid when combating disinformation:

  1. Failure to clearly define terms: Misinformation is false information that one spreads because they believe it to be true, whereas disinformation is information one spreads even though they know it to be false. In an effort to combat misinformation and disinformation, some leaders confuse or conflate the terms. Additionally, leaders sometimes falsely apply these labels to online discourse that is angry or polarizing but not necessarily spreading false information.

  2. Failure to analyze disinformation alongside other factors: Often fighting disinformation is a part of a solution to a larger societal ill. In the case of health disinformation, leaders may benefit from studying how the issue is related to Americans' widespread distrust of the country's healthcare system, the report said.

  3. Lack of inclusivity when earning back trust: To beat skepticism and build trust, efforts to combat disinformation should center on free speech values and ideological neutrality.

  4. Failure to promote critical thinking: Leaders should encourage Americans to dispassionately analyze statements, regardless of the speaker's perceived identity, the report said.

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