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Carla Warren, University of Houston
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Felice Friedson
Founder, President
Social Media and Credibility
(Illustrative)

Social Media and Credibility

Al-Etihad, UAE, April 9

As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, so does the problem of rumors and fake news. It is difficult to persuade the masses, especially millennials (born between 1985 and 1995) and Gen Z’ers (born between 1996 and 2010) to abandon social media platforms and replace them with traditional media, simply because the latter are perceived by younger generations are more credible. Younger generations grew up with digital media and what appeals to them is the flexibility and interactivity of social media platforms, which traditional media outlets lack. As a result, social media has become an indispensable source of information for millions of people around the world. Yet at the same time, social media platforms are a breeding ground for dangerous rumors. Even the director-general of the World Health Organization claimed that what we are currently fighting is not just the coronavirus but also the misinformation epidemic. Indeed, threatening our world with misinformation, hatred, and fear can be more dangerous than threatening it with a virus. Given these circumstances, the World Health Organization has recently taken to social media platforms to spread science-backed content related to the coronavirus epidemic. One of the organization’s hand-washing tutorial videos, for example, became viral on TikTok, a platform used by 16- to 24-year-olds worldwide. Similar campaigns were launched on LinkedIn and Twitter with the hope of reaching older and more professional audiences. It is important to use all methods available at our disposal to combat fake news and rumors, but it is unreasonable to expect the public to stop using social media platforms because of credibility issues. Therefore, anyone interested in ensuring the spread of credible news – including health providers, government agencies, and commercial bodies – must follow the WHO’s footsteps and become active on social media, where they can attract the masses with interactive content. – Najat Al-Saeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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