WASHINGTON — A new individually authored discussion paper in NAM Perspectives — the digital periodical of the National Academy of Medicine — outlines principles and attributes that social media platforms can use to identify potentially credible sources of health information online. In order to enhance the accessibility of trustworthy health information on its platform, earlier this year YouTube asked an expert panel convened by NAM to identify preliminary definitions of “authoritative” sources of health information and the criteria by which these sources derive and maintain their authority.
Identifying Credible Sources of Health Information in Social Media: Principles and Attributes says credible sources of health information in social media should be science-based, objective, transparent, and accountable. The paper also outlines attributes of credible sources of health information, such as providing citations for information shared and evidence to justify claims, acknowledging limitations and evolution of knowledge, and prioritizing accessibility and equitable access to information.
“Accessing credible health information has become more challenging yet more important than ever during COVID-19,” said NAM President Victor J. Dzau. “Given the surgeon general’s advisory issued last week which noted that ‘health misinformation is a serious threat to public health,’ this discussion paper is timely and takes a constructive step toward addressing the issue by guiding social media companies to elevate health information that can accurately inform people worldwide.”
Moreover, the paper notes that identifying whether a source is potentially credible alone is insufficient, and that many parallel strategies of analysis should be employed, including some form of content review. The authors also identify critical public health and health equity considerations, including avoiding further cementing existing structural bias and calling for social media platforms to transparently share data with researchers so that delivery of credible health information to consumers can be analyzed and improved.
The paper was the result of a public webinar, public comment period, and four deliberative meetings among the expert panel, chaired by Raynard Kington, former deputy director of the National Institutes of Health and current head of school at Phillips Academy in Andover.
This paper is not a consensus study or report of the National Academy of Medicine or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This paper should be cited as the work of authors Raynard S. Kington, Stacey Arnesen, Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, Susan J. Curry, David Lazer, and Antonia M. Villarruel in NAM Perspectives. The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
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