Mitigating an Infodemic

Can the Professions Still Regulate Themselves?

Ramona Nelson, PhD, BC-RN


Online J Issues Nurs. 2022;27(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


"Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm." (Commission on Information Disorder, 2021, p. 1) There is no better demonstration of this chain reaction than the harm that is being inflicted across the globe by the COVID-19 infodemic. The term infodemic may be new for some readers.


In 2003, the term Infodemic was coined by journalist and political scientist David Rothkopf in a Washington Post column to describe a blend of information and epidemic. (Merriam-Webster, 2022). In his column, written well before COVID-19, he defines infodemic as: "A few facts, mixed with fear, speculation and rumor, amplified and relayed swiftly worldwide by modern information technologies, have affected national and international economies, politics and even security in ways that are utterly disproportionate with the root realities." (Rothkopf, 2003, p. 1).

Since that time several other definitions have been published all of which contain the same general concepts. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines infodemic as "too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak. It causes confusion and risk-taking behaviours that can harm health." (WHO, 2022, p. 1 para 1) But it took a pandemic in the middle of political crosswinds (Niburski, 2020) to make an infodemic a public health challenge threatening the health of all peoples worldwide. As of January 2022, 136 countries joined together to endorse a Cross-Regional Statement on "Infodemic" in the Context of COVID-19 calling for a commitment to creating a healthy information environment at the national, regional, and global levels (United States Mission to the United Nations, 2020).