The scientific community must take up cudgels in the battle against bunk.
Cow urine, bleach and cocaine have all been recommended as COVID-19 cures — all guff. The pandemic has been cast as a leaked bioweapon, a byproduct of 5G wireless technology and a political hoax — all poppycock. And countless wellness gurus and alternative-medicine practitioners have pushed unproven potions, pills and practices as ways to ‘boost’ the immune system.
Thankfully, this explosion of misinformation — or, as the World Health Organization has called it, the “infodemic” — has triggered an army of fact-checkers and debunkers. Regulators have taken aggressive steps to hold marketers of unproven therapies to account. Funders are supporting researchers (myself included) to explore how best to counter the spread of COVID-19 claptrap.
I have studied the spread and impact of health misinformation for decades, and have never seen the topic being taken as seriously as it is right now. Perhaps that is because of the scale of the crisis and the ubiquity of the nonsensical misinformation, including advice from some very prominent politicians. If this pro-science response is to endure, all scientists — not just a few of us — must stand up for quality information.