Study Launch. Mitigating Infodemics: Media uses in Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic
LAU’s Institute of Media Research and Training (IMRT) in the School of Arts and Sciences launched a new study on media and COVID-19. The report “Mitigating Infodemics” was released on Tuesday June 30 at 3pm in Irwin Theater, LAU Beirut.
The research examines patterns of media and information uses in Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to support efforts to mitigate the pandemic by examining and combatting the dissemination of false and potentially life-threatening information and fake news related to the virus.
The study focuses on the phenomenon of “infodemics” or the pervasiveness of fake news, false information, and widespread confusing and inconsistent content.
The IMRT-led study included 12 researchers from four universities. The study’s principal investigators were Dr. Jad Melki, associate professor of journalism and media studies at LAU, and Dr. Eveline Hitti, associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.
The co-investigators were Dr. Mirna Abou Zeid, assistant professor of journalism and corporate communication at the Lebanese University, and Dr. Ali El Takach, assistant professor of communication and media studies at Al Maaref University.
Assistant researchers included Dima Hadid, Lara Ghandour, Dana Naamani, Ahmad Karakira, Hussein Kassab, Jana el Amin, Rana Tabbara, and Sally Farhat.
The study surveyed a random sample of 1,536 individuals from all Lebanese governorates between March 27, 2020 and April 23, 2020, with a 51.6 percent response rate and a 2.5 percent margin of error.
It examines Lebanese resident’s knowledge of COVID-19, as well as their perceived knowledge, belief in myths and false information, fear of the virus, and compliance with prevention measures.
• Respondents mainly received and largely trusted information about COVID-19 from television more than any other media source.
• The majority of those surveyed primarily trusted doctors and medical experts for COVID-19 information, while a lower number of respondents said they trusted clerics and religious authorities for COVID-19 information.
• Less than one-third of people posted on social media about COVID-19, with the majority saying they checked original sources before sharing information.
• The majority of respondents agreed that media coverage of COVID-19 was comprehensive, and only a few said it was inconsistent and exaggerated.
• Almost all respondents said they comply with COVID-19 prevention measures and scored very high on the COVID-19 prevention compliance index.
• People in Lebanon displayed a moderate to high level of knowledge about COVID19.
• A high number of respondents believed in myths and false information about coronavirus and overall received a moderate to low score on the COVID-19 myth index.
• Participants with higher education levels and those who had media literacy training were more knowledgeable about COVID-19 and less likely to believe in myths and false information related to the pandemic.
• Respondents who said they trusted doctors were also more likely to know more about COVID-19 and to comply with prevention measures. In comparison, respondents who said they trusted clerics and religious authorities scored lower on the COVID-19 knowledge index and were more likely to believe in myths and false information about the virus.
• The study compared COVID-19 knowledge, prevention compliance, and belief in myths across Lebanese governorates, income levels, and genders, and recorded a number of differences.
The report includes recommendations to the Lebanese government, media, academic and healthcare institutions, and civil society groups on how to deal with infodemics.
The study is part of the ongoing IMRT’s Media/Digital Literacy Program at LAU. The program focuses on the advancement of media and digital literacy education and research in the Arab region, through training a generation of educators, trainers, activists and researchers, and developing locally rooted curricula and scholarship. imrt.lau.edu.lb
The project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) through the Arab-European Association for Media and Communication Researchers (AREACORE).
IMRT is an interdisciplinary center for media research ,training ,production and advocacy .
It builds on media literacy theory that aims to empower citizens with creative and critical thinking skills and digital competencies that help them become civically engaged global citizens capable of innovatively harnessing the power of media technologies to advance human rights, peace, and social justice.