Poster Open Access

How can the Government tackle an Infodemic during a Pandemic?

Patrick O'Sullivan; Carolanne Mahony

Stress and uncertainty have been shown to increase people’s health information-seeking (Lee & Hawkins, 2016). Health information-seeking is generally viewed as a positive as it is a coping strategy employed by patients (Lambert & Loiselle, 2007). However, The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has highlighted the risk of false and misleading information spreading rapidly across different platforms, and he called this an infodemic (Zarocostas, 2020). The spread of speculative and false information about Covid-19 breaths uncertainty among the public and this leads to problems for the rational management of the outbreak (Kelly, 2020). During the current health crisis, the spread of false information has detracted from evidence-based precautions advised by health authorities. It has also led to delays in people seeking time-sensitive treatment and people avoiding medications (O’Connor & Murphy, 2020).

When faced with a health emergency, governments can suspend ordinary law to protect the population. During COVID-19, governments have undertaken numerous extraordinary measures including limiting freedom of movement and freedom of assembly, placing restrictions on entrepreneurial activity and utilising surveillance technology (Nay, 2020; Paakkari & Okan, 2020). One option open to governments hoping to reduce the infodemic is to restrict individual freedom of expression. This Work-in-Progress (WIP) paper uses the Belmont Report (Ryan et al., 1979), to explore how restricting an individual’s freedom of expression may be tailored to meet the needs of wider society during a health crisis and how this may impact on the rights of the individual. 

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