Since COVID-19 emerged, a plethora of misinformation has undermined the public’s ability to identify reliable sources of accurate information. To identify the range of methods governments used to address COVID-19 misinformation, we conducted a content analysis of international media and evaluated government actions in light of international law, which protects freedom of expression and calls on governments to guarantee this fundamental right even during a pandemic or other emergency. We identified five categories of government activities: (1) disseminating and increasing access to accurate information; (2) restricting access to accurate information; (3) disseminating disinformation, false information, and misinformation; (4) addressing commercial fraud; and (5) criminalizing expression. The goal of addressing COVID-19 misinformation is best served by protecting expression, disseminating factual information, ensuring strong protections for whistleblowers, and supporting an independent media environment. Conversely, governments undermine public health when they create a state of uncertainty and violate human rights.
- Commercial fraud
- Freedom of expression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health