Correcting misinformation by health organizations during measles outbreaks: A controlled experiment

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Alon Diamant, Rana Hijazi, Gustavo S. Mesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background During epidemic crises, some of the information the public receives on social media is misinformation. Health organizations are required to respond and correct the information to gain the public’s trust and influence it to follow the recommended instructions. Objectives (1) To examine ways for health organizations to correct misinformation concerning the measles vaccination on social networks for two groups: pro-vaccination and hesitant; (2) To examine the types of reactions of two subgroups (pro-vaccination, hesitant) to misinformation correction; and (3) To examine the effect of misinformation correction on these two subgroups regarding reliability, satisfaction, self-efficacy and intentions. Methods A controlled experiment with participants divided randomly into two conditions. In both experiment conditions a dilemma was presented as to sending a child to kindergarten, followed by an identical Facebook post voicing the children mothers’ concerns. In the third stage the correction by the health organization is presented differently in two conditions: Condition 1 –common information correction, and Condition 2 –recommended (theory-based) information correction, mainly communicating information transparently and addressing the public’s concerns. The study included (n = 243) graduate students from the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at Haifa University. Results A statistically significant difference was found in the reliability level attributed to information correction by the Health Ministry between the Control condition and Experimental condition (sig<0.001), with the average reliability level of the subjects in Condition 2 (M = 5.68) being considerably higher than the average reliability level of subjects in Condition 1 (4.64). A significant difference was found between Condition 1 and Condition 2 (sig<0.001), with the average satisfaction from the Health Ministry’s response of Condition 2 subjects (M = 5.75) being significantly higher than the average satisfaction level of Condition 1 subjects (4.66). Similarly, when we tested the pro and hesitant groups separately, we found that both preferred the response presented in Condition 2. Conclusion It is very important for the organizations to correct misinformation transparently, and to address the emotional aspects for both the pro-vaccination and the hesitant groups. The pro-vaccination group is not a captive audience, and it too requires a full response that addresses the public’s fears and concerns.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0209505
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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