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      YouTube as a source of information on COVID-19: a pandemic of misinformation?

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          The COVID-19 pandemic is this century’s largest public health emergency and its successful management relies on the effective dissemination of factual information. As a social media platform with billions of daily views, YouTube has tremendous potential to both support and hinder public health efforts. However, the usefulness and accuracy of most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 have not been investigated.


          A YouTube search was performed on 21 March 2020 using keywords ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’, and the top 75 viewed videos from each search were analysed. Videos that were duplicates, non-English, non-audio and non-visual, exceeding 1 hour in duration, live and unrelated to COVID-19 were excluded. Two reviewers coded the source, content and characteristics of included videos. The primary outcome was usability and reliability of videos, analysed using the novel COVID-19 Specific Score (CSS), modified DISCERN (mDISCERN) and modified JAMA (mJAMA) scores.


          Of 150 videos screened, 69 (46%) were included, totalling 257 804 146 views. Nineteen (27.5%) videos contained non-factual information, totalling 62 042 609 views. Government and professional videos contained only factual information and had higher CSS than consumer videos (mean difference (MD) 2.21, 95% CI 0.10 to 4.32, p=0.037); mDISCERN scores than consumer videos (MD 2.46, 95% CI 0.50 to 4.42, p=0.008), internet news videos (MD 2.20, 95% CI 0.19 to 4.21, p=0.027) and entertainment news videos (MD 2.57, 95% CI 0.66 to 4.49, p=0.004); and mJAMA scores than entertainment news videos (MD 1.21, 95% CI 0.07 to 2.36, p=0.033) and consumer videos (MD 1.27, 95% CI 0.10 to 2.44, p=0.028). However, they only accounted for 11% of videos and 10% of views.


          Over one-quarter of the most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 contained misleading information, reaching millions of viewers worldwide. As the current COVID-19 pandemic worsens, public health agencies must better use YouTube to deliver timely and accurate information and to minimise the spread of misinformation. This may play a significant role in successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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          Most cited references 13

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          Assessing, Controlling, and Assuring the Quality of Medical Information on the Internet

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            YouTube as a source of information on the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

            The ongoing H1N1 influenza pandemic has created a significant amount of health concern. Adequate dissemination of correct information about H1N1 influenza could help in decreasing the disease spread and associated anxiety in the population. This study aims to examine the effective use of the popular Internet video site YouTube as an information source during the initial phase of the H1N1 outbreak. YouTube was searched on June 26, 2009, using the keywords swine flu, H1N1 influenza, and influenza for videos uploaded in the past 3 months containing relevant information about the disease. The videos were classified as useful, misleading, or as news updates based on the kind of information contained. Total viewership, number of days since upload, total duration of videos, and source of upload were noted. A total of 142 videos had relevant information about H1N1 influenza. In all, 61.3% of videos had useful information about the disease, whereas 23% were misleading. Total viewership share of useful videos was 70.5%, whereas that of misleading videos was 17.5%, with no significant difference in viewership/day. The CDC contributed about 12% of the useful videos, with a significant viewership share of 47%. No significant differences were seen in viewership/day for useful videos based on the kind of information they contained. YouTube has a substantial amount of useful information about H1N1 influenza. A source-based preference is seen among the viewers, and CDC-uploaded videos are being used in an increasing proportion as a source of authentic information about the disease. Copyright (c) 2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              Coverage of the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic on YouTube.

              The recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in 2014-2015 has been the largest and longest lasting to date. Media coverage about the outbreak has been extensive, but there are large gaps in our understanding of the ways in which widely accessed social media sites are used during times of public health crisis. The purpose of this study was to analyze widely viewed videos about EVD on the YouTube video-sharing site.

                Author and article information

                BMJ Glob Health
                BMJ Glob Health
                BMJ Global Health
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                14 May 2020
                14 May 2020
                : 5
                : 5
                [1 ] departmentFaculty of Medicine , University of Ottawa , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                [2 ] departmentDepartment of Health Sciences , Carleton University , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                [3 ] departmentOfficial Languages and Bilingualism Institute , University of Ottawa , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                [4 ] departmentDepartment of Medicine , Ottawa Hospital , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Ms Heidi Oi-Yee Li; heidi.li@ 123456live.ca ; Ms Heidi Oi-Yee Li; heidi.li@ 123456live.ca

                HO-YL and AB are joint first authors.

                © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

                This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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