Factors Influencing Willingness to Share Health Misinformation Videos on the Internet:Web-Based Survey

Alla Keselman, Catherine Arnott Smith, Gondy Leroy, David R. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The rapidly evolving digital environment of the social media era has increased the reach of both quality health information and misinformation. Platforms such as YouTube enable easy sharing of attractive, if not always evidence-based, videos with large personal networks and the public. Although much research has focused on characterizing health misinformation on the internet, it has not sufficiently focused on describing and measuring individuals' information competencies that build resilience. Objective: This study aims to assess individuals' willingness to share a non-evidence-based YouTube video about strengthening the immune system; to describe types of evidence that individuals view as supportive of the claim by the video; and to relate information-sharing behavior to several information competencies, namely, information literacy, science literacy, knowledge of the immune system, interpersonal trust, and trust in health authority. Methods: A web-based survey methodology with 150 individuals across the United States was used. Participants were asked to watch a YouTube excerpt from a morning TV show featuring a wellness pharmacy representative promoting an immunity-boosting dietary supplement produced by his company; answer questions about the video and report whether they would share it with a cousin who was frequently sick; and complete instruments pertaining to the information competencies outlined in the objectives. Results: Most participants (105/150, 70%) said that they would share the video with their cousins. Their confidence in the supplement would be further boosted by a friend's recommendations, positive reviews on a crowdsourcing website, and statements of uncited effectiveness studies on the producer's website. Although all information literacy competencies analyzed in this study had a statistically significant relationship with the outcome, each competency was also highly correlated with the others. Information literacy and interpersonal trust independently predicted the largest amount of variance in the intention to share the video (17% and 16%, respectively). Interpersonal trust was negatively related to the willingness to share the video. Science literacy explained 7% of the variance. Conclusions: People are vulnerable to web-based misinformation and are likely to propagate it on the internet. Information literacy and science literacy are associated with less vulnerability to misinformation and a lower propensity to spread it. Of the two, information literacy holds a greater promise as an intervention target. Understanding the role of different kinds of trust in information sharing merits further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere30323
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Information literacy
  • Misinformation
  • Science literacy
  • Webcasts as topic
  • YouTube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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