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COVID-19 Epidemiology Research and The Question of Authenticity Online


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on challenges our society has never before had to face. In addition to the loss of lives, business disruption, social isolation, and changes to our daily lives, we are battling the speed at which information is spreading in times of Coronavirus. That information has not all been scientific and about the virus… but about the agendas of groups online who are using this moment as an opportunity to advocate for their special interests.

We spoke with Spencer Fox, Research Associate at The Lauren Ancel Meyers Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. His team has been modeling the pandemic and is publishing reports on the spread of the virus, including recent findings around the risk of students returning to school, covered by The New York Times.

Fox, along with other epidemiologists have been grappling with challenges, not only related to the nature of this pandemic, but the nature of the informational landscape we find ourselves in today. Watch below.

Brands and organizations should note that, during times of uncertainty, agenda-driven content and conversations tend to spread faster as the public looks for credibility and something to trust. Influential communities online — and their specific perspectives and interests — become the source of much of what takes hold online.

The goal should not be to beat everyone else to the punch, to publish your news first, to roll out your latest TV commercial ahead of other brands… The goal for brands and other sources of information, education, and even comfort in this moment should be to pause, listen, understand what your stakeholders need, and communicate in a way that provides clarity.