Alumna Chizobam Nwagwu ’18 (neuroscience/policy studies) is currently serving in the inaugural cohort of U.S. Digital Corps (USDC) Fellows. The U.S. Digital Corps launched last year to recruit early-career technologists to work on priority projects in five skill tracks: software…
COVID Misinformation and How to Stop It
The Surgeon General just released a toolkit to help people fight misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. It is geared specifically for people to talk about misinformation within their close circles of friends and family.
Social media researcher Jenny Stromer-Galley, professor at the iSchool at Syracuse University, can offer insight on the proliferation of misinformation and how to stop it. Prof. Stromer-Galley has been studying social media before it was called social media, and has embarked on a new research project on misinformation.
Here are her comments about the toolkit:
“The communication and information science research supports the approach the CDC is pushing – the greatest influencers are people in our network who we trust: parents, doctors, religious leaders, close friends,” said Stromer-Galley.
“When someone believes misinformation, it can be quite hard for that person to be corrected. Misinformation often aligns with our beliefs and worldviews – it fits our story of the world (which is why we end up believing it). And, if a friend comes along and says, in effect, “your beliefs are wrong,” that’s threatening. It causes the misinformed person to get defense and stop dialogue,” said Stromer-Galley.
“So, the guidance in the toolkit is a better approach – to not ‘fact check’ or try to discredit what someone believes, but instead to listen and to encourage that they seek counsel from people they trust, like their doctor. Sharing why you got vaccinated and what it means to you can help, if the person you’re talking to is open to the conversation. The best way to counter misinformation is to provide better stories that can ultimately replace the story that false information provided.”
“The guide itself definitely isn’t for the general public, though. Given that it’s a 22 page document, it’s not going to be something an ordinary person picks up and reads! But, for community leaders – doctors, pastors, teachers – this toolkit provides key resources and guidance on how to start the conversations with people who are unvaccinated to help slowly undo the toxic information environment we have been since the start of COVID. Because that’s how opinions and behavior changes – one conversation at a time,” said Stromer-Galley.
To schedule an interview, please contact Ellen James Mbuqe, director of media relations at Syracuse University, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-496-0551