Trisha Tsui-Chuan Lin | Professor, College of Communication, National Chengchi University, Taiwan; Harvard Yenching Visiting Scholar, 2022-23; Fulbright Senior Researcher, Harvard University, 2022-23
Winnie Yip | Professor of the Practice of Global Health Policy and Economics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media algorithms has facilitated the viral spread of mis- and disinformation, resulting in global public health crises. After raising Coronavirus epidemic warning in mid-2021, Taiwan has faced increasing health misinformation risks and challenges of mitigation. The goal of the mixed-method research is two-fold: to examine characteristics of Taiwan’s health misinformation after COVID-19 Level 3 Alert, and to investigate the complex relationship among social media users’ (dis)information efficacy, health literacy and their impacts on vaccination. First, I systematically analyzed viral health misinformation messages verified by fact-check organizations over the past 1.5 years. Content analysis shows that prevalent types of Coronavirus falsehoods are related to vaccine effectiveness, false cures and preventative measures, and government’s epidemic prevention. Their most salient motives include fear mongering and conspiracies, especially on political smear. Next, my survey of Taiwanese social media users finds that COVID-19 health literacy significantly increases individual adoption of preventive measures and vaccination. Social media information efficacy is the key to improve critical posts of COVID-19 information, which positively affects health literacy and its components (i.e., accessing, understanding, appraising, and applying health information). Nonetheless, social media disinformation efficacy moderately influences how people understand and apply health literacy.