1 in 4 YouTube Videos Mislead Viewers About COVID


WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) — More than one-quarter of popular English-language COVID-19 information videos posted to YouTube are misleading, researchers warn.

There are posts, for example, falsely claiming that drug companies already have a cure for COVID-19, but won’t sell it, and that different countries have stronger strains of coronavirus, a new study finds.

YouTube viewers “should be skeptical, use common sense and consult reputable sources — public health agencies or physicians — to fact-check their information,” said study lead author Heidi Oi-Yee Li, a medical student at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

With billions of viewers, YouTube has enormous potential to bolster or hamper public health efforts, Li and her colleagues said in background notes. But what they turned up in their recent YouTube search is “alarming,” Li said.

“In an ideal world, social media platforms should take more responsibility for content uploaded,” she said. But “this is an unrealistic expectation, given the billions of users uploading information every second across the globe.”

Li’s team did a simple keyword search for “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” on March 21, 2020.

After compiling the top 75 videos for each of the search words, the team excluded all non-English clips, those exceeding an hour, duplicates, and anything not actually about COVID-19.

The remaining 69 videos had already been viewed nearly 258 million times, they said. Just under one-third (29%) were clips from TV network news. Consumer-generated postings and entertainment news each accounted for about one in five clips.

Internet-based news made up 12%, while “professional” advice and information gleaned from newspapers accounted for less than 10%.

Only 2% of the clips were posted by government agencies, such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clips from educational institutions also accounted for just 2% of the total.

All were scored for accuracy according to information on how COVID-19 is spread; typical symptoms; prevention; treatments; and infection patterns (epidemiology).

While nearly three-quarters of the videos were deemed accurate, almost 28% — accounting for 62 million screenings — were not.

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