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Inaccurate Zika Info More Likely to be Shared on Social Media than the Truth – and What Planners Can Do to Fight It

16 Nov, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The Internet isn’t the repository of all truth? Wow. Say it ain’t so. But those who are putting on sports events in Zika-affected areas should be aware of this: A new study of social media sharing patterns focusing on content about the Zika virus outbreak found that reports containing incorrect information were far more likely to be shared online than correct ones.

In plain speaking: people are far more likely to share lies than they are to pass along the truth.

MediaPost noted that a study, entitled, “Zika Virus Pandemic : Analysis of Facebook as a Social Media Health Information Platform” that published in the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers analyzed the 200 most popular Facebook posts and videos about the Zika virus by U.S. Facebook users in May and June 2016, as determined by the number of views, shares and comments.

The study found that 81% of the posts about Zika were accurate. However, the remaining 19% contained inaccuracies or propagated conspiracy theories, including 12% which were actively misleading, for example suggesting that Zika was a hoax or a plot to depopulate the developing world – and these were much more likely to be shared across the social network.

In one example, the study noted that the most-shared credible post, a WHO press briefing, was shared by 964 Facebook accounts and received 43,000 views. By contrast, a post claiming that Zika is a hoax was shared by 19,600 Facebook accounts and racked up over 530,000 views.

And unfortunately, it’s not just misinformation that results, it’s misdeeds. Because many of those highly-shared and totally inaccurate posts contained statements that went against qualified medical advice, those who buy into it would be unlikely to take even the minimal precautions against Zika recommended by the health orgs.

And right now, there has never been a more critical time for travelers to be more cognizant of correct information. A recent report indicated Zika may have a devastating effect on male fertility.

Planners of sports events, therefore, are going to need to take precautions to make sure all participants stay informed – with the correct information – regarding Zika. A few recommendations:

  • Send out links to the CDC’s special page with updated information on the Zika virus. The page is intuitively set up and contains the information travelers need to know.

  • Encourage participants to practice safe habits, including use of insect repellants and more, throughout the event.

  • Let participants know that although there is presently no vaccine for Zika, they should have all other immunizations up to date (these may include a flu shot) in order to stay healthy throughout the event.

  • Keep an eye on social media posts regarding your event, and periodically update it with Zika information.

 

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