Panelists endorse joint “pre-distraction” to stop toxic misinformation

Washington Post reporter and panel moderator Lauren Weber talks with JAMA Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo and co-moderator Irving Washington, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation “Malignant misinformation. “Searching for a ‘Cure'” Roundtable Discussion and Awards Ceremony at HJ23 in St. Louis. The second panelist, Dr. Garth Graham, Global Head of Healthcare and Public Health at Google/YouTube, is not pictured but participated via Zoom. (Photo by Zachary Linhares)

Scientific knowledge is no match for entrenched misinformation, JAMA editor-in-chief Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, told the crowd at the Health Journalism 2023 luncheon in St. Louis on Saturday, March 11. Just look at ivermectin.

JAMA recently published the fourth large, randomized trial found that the antiparasitic drug did not improve the symptoms of COVID. However, Bibbins-Domingo said she is aware that no amount of high-quality evidence will overturn persistent claims that ivermectin is a miracle cure for COVID. At the same time, he said, ethical questions arise as researchers continue to study what many consider to be established science.

“When you publish an ivermectin trial at this point in the epidemic, you get two reactions. We already know the answer to that.” And “Why do you want to publish this trial, because this trial is flawed in all these respects and I am not satisfied,” he said.

He and colleague Garth Graham, MD, Global Head of Healthcare and Public Health at Google/YouTube, agreed that technology companies and medical journals, as well as other health stakeholders such as journalists, need to collaborate in new ways to prevent harmful hoaxes before they snowball.

They are “Malignant disinformation. “The Search for a ‘Cure'” were keynote speakers at a roundtable moderated by Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Fellow Irving Washington and Washington Post reporter Lauren Weber. The lunch also did the trick recipients of 2022 Awards for Excellence in Health Journalism.

Graham, cardiologist and public health expert, advertised as “pre-disinformation,” or warning people about potential misinformation before they encounter it. Once misinformation takes root, it’s hard to dislodge it, he said, citing the strength of a 1998 Lancet article that was later retracted that wrongly linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

“Sometimes when you’re late in the game with this information journey, this information transfer, people get really tough on ‘inaccuracies,'” he said.

He added: “The real question is how do we shape those conceptual stories earlier in the conversation?”

Graham said emerging misinformation can be found in forums such as article comment sections. “You see very early on where questions and ideas are percolating through the ecosystem,” he said. That’s when the pre-booking should start.

Unsubstantiated stories like social media claims that The Covid vaccine caused Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin to collapse on a field that tends to play out in predictable ways, Bibbins-Domingo added. General internist and cardiovascular epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. It can give an opportunity to intervene in online platforms and journalists.

“You see these patterns when you start looking at them,” he said.

Calling cooperation “key” to an effective response, Graham invited reporters to reach out to him in an effort to create “greater connections that can quickly develop around disinformation.”

In turn, researchers can do a better job of predicting how the public will perceive their work, and journals can make conclusions more accessible to a wider audience and provide “tools” to combat bad actors, including doctors who spread lies. , Bibbins-Domingo said.

However, he admitted that he is still developing the appropriate “voice” for his own journal, which is “criticized in this kind of deconstruction effort as representing the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical establishment.”

Despite the potential reach of social media, Graham said he has already come to appreciate how accurate information is empowering patients.

“I used to resent Dr. Google, but now I’m literally becoming Dr. Google,” he said, prompting laughter.

The program awards recognized 42 stories across 14 reporting categories, including audio, beat, business, consumer/feature, health policy, investigative, public health, student and trade.

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