Principles for Defining & Verifying the Authority of Online Providers of Health Information

Public Comment Period

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is seeking feedback on preliminary principles for assessing the authoritativeness of online sources of health information. Interested parties — including scientists, policy makers, organizations that share health information through social media, and members of the public — are invited to review and comment on a public discussion document between April 5, 2021, at 12:00 pm ET, and April 9, 2021, at 11:59 pm ET.

In order to improve the quality of health information appearing on its platform, YouTube has asked the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) to identify 1) preliminary definitions of “authoritative” sources of health information and 2) the criteria by which these sources derive and maintain their authority. Initially, this may include developing “categories” of authoritative content providers (e.g., government agencies, academic institutions, professional associations, etc.), with well established mechanisms of authority verification (e.g., accreditation, scientific peer review). At this time, the project will not consider the authority of individuals or for-profit health companies. Outcomes from this project will help to inform YouTube’s policies for labeling and promoting authoritative health information.

The project will also outline the ethical, logistical, and public health implications of content labeling strategies for consideration by YouTube and other online platforms that host health information.

* Estimate that approximately 3 in 4 Americans access health information online comes from Swire-Thompson, B., & D. Lazer. 2020. Public Health and Online Misinformation: Challenges and Recommendations. Annual Review of Public Health 41:1:433-451.

Project Elements

Advisory Group: An expert advisory group appointed by the NAM will gather information and deliberate in order to author a discussion paper for publication in NAM Perspectives. Notes from the advisory group’s meetings will be posted on this webpage.

Public Comment Opportunity: Initial definitions, principles, and questions will be posted on this webpage for public comment in April 2021. Additional public comment opportunities may be added.

Information-Gathering Webinar: The NAM will host a public webinar in April 2021 to hear feedback from experts, stakeholders, and the public.

Feedback Synthesis: A summary of feedback received during the public comment period and webinar will be posted on this webpage.

Final Discussion Paper: An individually-authored, peer-reviewed paper containing recommendations for consideration by YouTube and other online platforms will be published in Summer 2021.

Advisory Group

  • Raynard Kington, MD, MBA, PhD (Chair), Phillips Academy in Andover
  • Stacey Arnesen, MS, National Library of Medicine
  • Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, PhD, MPH, National Cancer Institute
  • Sue Curry, PhD, University of Iowa (Emeritus)
  • David Lazer, PhD, Northeastern University
  • Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, University of Pennsylvania


  • Laura DeStefano (Project Director), Director of Communications, NAM
  • David Butler, PhD, Founding Director, Cultural, Ethical, Social, and Environmental Responsibility in Engineering Program, National Academy of Engineering
  • Jenna Ogilvie, MFA, Deputy Director of Communications, NAM
  • Holly Rhodes, PhD, Director, Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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