↓ Skip to main content

Communication of COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media by Physicians in the US

Overview of attention for article published in JAMA Network Open, August 2023
Altmetric Badge

About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • Among the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#15 of 9,549)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (99th percentile)

Mentioned by

news
45 news outlets
blogs
8 blogs
twitter
9545 X users
facebook
5 Facebook pages
reddit
5 Redditors

Citations

dimensions_citation
13 Dimensions

Readers on

mendeley
23 Mendeley
You are seeing a free-to-access but limited selection of the activity Altmetric has collected about this research output. Click here to find out more.
Title
Communication of COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media by Physicians in the US
Published in
JAMA Network Open, August 2023
DOI 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.28928
Pubmed ID
Authors

Sahana Sule, Marisa C. DaCosta, Erin DeCou, Charlotte Gilson, Kate Wallace, Sarah L. Goff

Abstract

Approximately one-third of the more than 1 100 000 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths as of January 18, 2023, were considered preventable if public health recommendations had been followed. Physicians' propagation of misinformation about COVID-19 on social media and other internet-based platforms has raised professional, public health, and ethical concerns. To characterize (1) the types of COVID-19 misinformation propagated by US physicians after vaccines became available, (2) the online platforms used, and (3) the characteristics of the physicians spreading misinformation. Using US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection during the study window to define misinformation, structured searches of high-use social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Parler, and YouTube) and news sources (The New York Times, National Public Radio) were conducted to identify COVID-19 misinformation communicated by US-based physicians between January 2021 and December 2022. Physicians' state of licensure and medical specialty were identified. The number of followers for each physician on 4 major platforms was extracted to estimate reach and qualitative content analysis of the messages was performed. Outcome measures included categories of COVID-19 misinformation propagated, the number and traits of physicians engaged in misinformation propagation, and the type of online media channels used to propagate misinformation and potential reach. The propagation of COVID-19 misinformation was attributed to 52 physicians in 28 different specialties across all regions of the country. General misinformation categories included vaccines, medication, masks, and other (ie, conspiracy theories). Forty-two physicians (80.8%) posted vaccine misinformation, 40 (76.9%) propagated information in more than 1 category, and 20 (38.5%) posted misinformation on 5 or more platforms. Major themes identified included (1) disputing vaccine safety and effectiveness, (2) promoting medical treatments lacking scientific evidence and/or US Food and Drug Administration approval, (3) disputing mask-wearing effectiveness, and (4) other (unsubstantiated claims, eg, virus origin, government lies, and other conspiracy theories). In this mixed-methods study of US physician propagation of COVID-19 misinformation on social media, results suggest widespread, inaccurate, and potentially harmful assertions made by physicians across the country who represented a range of subspecialties. Further research is needed to assess the extent of the potential harms associated with physician propagation of misinformation, the motivations for these behaviors, and potential legal and professional recourse to improve accountability for misinformation propagation.

X Demographics

X Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 9,545 X users who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.
Mendeley readers

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 23 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 23 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Unspecified 4 17%
Other 4 17%
Student > Ph. D. Student 3 13%
Student > Bachelor 1 4%
Student > Master 1 4%
Other 2 9%
Unknown 8 35%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Unspecified 4 17%
Medicine and Dentistry 3 13%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 1 4%
Business, Management and Accounting 1 4%
Nursing and Health Professions 1 4%
Other 5 22%
Unknown 8 35%
Attention Score in Context

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 3639. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 23 February 2024.
All research outputs
#1,486
of 25,386,384 outputs
Outputs from JAMA Network Open
#15
of 9,549 outputs
Outputs of similar age
#32
of 346,155 outputs
Outputs of similar age from JAMA Network Open
#1
of 530 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 25,386,384 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 9,549 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 129.2. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 346,155 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 530 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.