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YouTube as a Source of Information on COVID-19: A Pandemic of Misinformation?

30 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020

See all articles by Heidi Oi-Yee Li

Heidi Oi-Yee Li

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Medicine

Adrian M. J. Bailey

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Medicine

David Huynh

Carleton University - Department of Health Sciences

James W. T. Chan

The Ottawa Hospital - Division of General Internal Medicine

More...

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is the 21st century’s largest public health emergency and its successful management relies on communicating factual information to inform public behaviour. As a social media platform with billions of daily views, YouTube has tremendous potential to both support and hinder public health efforts. However, the usefulness and accuracy of most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 have not been investigated.

Methods: Three reviewers coded the source, content, and characteristics of the 150 most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19. The primary outcome was usability and reliability of videos, analyzed using COVID-19 Specific Score (CSS), modified DISCERN (mDISCERN), and modified JAMA (mJAMA) scores.

Findings: Of 150 videos screened, 69(46%) were included, totalling 257,804,146 views. Nineteen(27·5%) contained non-factual information, totalling 62,042,609 views. Government and professional videos contained only factual information and had higher CSS than consumer (mean difference [MD] 2·21,95% CI 0·10-4·32,p=0·037); mDISCERN scores than consumer (MD 2·46, 95%CI 0·50-4·42,p=0·008), internet news (MD 2·20, 95%CI 0·19-4·21,p=0·027), and entertainment news (MD 2·57, 95%CI 0·66-4·49,p=0·004); and mJAMA scores than entertainment news (MD 1·21, 95%CI 0·07-2·36; p=0·033), and consumer (MD 1·27, 95%CI 0·10-2·44,p=0·028). However, they only accounted for 11% of videos and 10% of views.

Interpretation: Over one-quarter of most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 contained misleading information, reaching millions of viewers worldwide. As the current COVID-19 pandemic worsens, public health agencies must better utilize YouTube to deliver timely and accurate information and to minimize the spread of misinformation. This may play a significant role in successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding Statement: None

Declaration of Interests: No conflict of interest to report.

Ethics Approval Statement: The authors reported none required.

Keywords: COVID-19, Coronavirus, YouTube, social media, pandemic

Suggested Citation

Li, Heidi Oi-Yee and Bailey, Adrian M. J. and Huynh, David and Chan, James W. T., YouTube as a Source of Information on COVID-19: A Pandemic of Misinformation? (4/2/2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3569884 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3569884

Heidi Oi-Yee Li (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Medicine ( email )

451 Smyth Rd.
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5
Canada

Adrian M. J. Bailey

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Medicine

451 Smyth Rd.
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5
Canada

David Huynh

Carleton University - Department of Health Sciences

Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

James W. T. Chan

The Ottawa Hospital - Division of General Internal Medicine

Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

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