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  • Writer's pictureJuliane Stiller

Panel discussion on disinformation in the health sector

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

From 26 to 29 September 2022, this year's conference “ISIC - The Information Behavior Conference" took place at the Institute of Library and Information Science at Humboldt University in Berlin. As part of our DESIVE² project, we organised a panel on "Disinformation in Health Information Behaviour". The panel discussion, to which the following academics were invited, was moderated by Dr. Juliane Stiller:

Isto Huvila is Professor of Information Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden and researches health information practices and e-health, as well as information seeking behaviour of cancer patients. In the panel, Isto Huvila gave an insight into the results of his research on the acceptance of health technologies in Sweden.

Thomas Mandl from the University of Hildesheim is Professor of Information Science. His research interests are information retrieval, human-computer interaction and the internationalisation of information technology. In the panel he reported on a project that investigated science communication and information behaviour during the Covid pandemic.

Kristina Eriksson-Backa is Research Director in Information Studies at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. She has many years of research experience in health information behaviour and health information literacy. Recently, she has increasingly focused on information literacy and its relationship to misinformation and disinformation. In the panel she presented her research on information avoidance of fact-based information.

Elena Macevičiūtė is a researcher at the University of Borås in Sweden. Her research focuses on the field of information and communication, as well as on the study of digital inequality and digital literacy. In the panel she presented her recent publication on information misbehaviour.

Picture shows the panel discussion with moderator and panel members.
Panel discussion "Disinformation in the context of health information behaviour", picture by Leyla Dewitz.

After a short statement on the topic by each panel member, the researchers started discussing the question of the difference between misinformation and disinformation. It was raised that the intention to harm plays a major role in disinformation, but that in practice it is very difficult to determine with which intention disinformation is spread.

The panel members also stated that it may be difficult for research to distinguish between correct and incorrect information. For example, when looking for training data for the automatic detection of misinformation, data sets from fact checkers are often used. Another point of discussion was the motivation of the disseminators and originators of disinformation. This is often not clearly recognisable, but could be a key to better combatting disinformation in the future. Elena Macevičiūtė referred to her recent publication in which she and Tom Wilson examined the motivations that lead to the creation and spread of disinformation.

In general, it was found that disinformation in the health context poses a particular challenge, as it can have serious consequences for people and society. In order to recognise disinformation, not only information literacy is needed, but also a certain health literacy that enables people to interpret information correctly.

The members of the panel agreed that research on information behaviour can make a contribution to understanding and combatting disinformation more decisively.

The abstract for the panel can be found here:

The moderator's introductory slides and an explanation of the DESIVE² project can be found at:

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