It is easy to spread posts, messages, and clips with COVID-related misinformation on the internet and via social media. “We want to examine whether the content and communication style of printed misinformation differs from that found on the internet,” says Professor Benjamin Schüz from the Institute of Public Health und Nursing Research at the University of Bremen. Together with Professor Johannes Schöning form the Human-Computer-Interaction Research Group, he is examining how misinformation spreads in the frame of a research project funded by Volkswagen Foundation.
Different Target Groups
The target groups for printed and online misinformation differ considerably, Schüz explains: “Flyers and brochures can also reach population groups who rarely use the internet or social media.” According to the researchers, another issue is that printed misinformation cannot be marked as such by social media companies – thus, it takes longer until the misinformation is debunked.
Printed Matter Appears Trustworthy
Many flyers or brochures appear to be trustworthy – they use infographics, have a professional layout, and quote supposed or actual expert scientists. Some even state authorizing persons and offer contact details. For some people, such printed information is deemed more trustworthy than posts on social media or the internet.
However, if and to which degree printed and online misinformation actually distribute varying content or concentrate on local and target-group specific topics, remains unanswered.
Thus, the researchers aim to analyze as many flyers as possible in order to be able to develop strategies to curb the spread of misinformation. Such strategies could, for example, inform the population of currently circulating misinformation and directly correct this misinformation. Various studies have already shown that individuals informed of misinformation in such a manner are less likely to believe in and spread misinformation.
Have You Encountered Printed Misinformation? Can You Help?
Professor Schüz and his research team would like to ask for your help: If you have encountered COVID-related printed misinformation, either in the form of flyers or brochures in your letterbox, please take a photo and upload it or describe it online here:
Privacy, data protection, and anonymity are guaranteed.
Prof. Dr. Benjamin Schüz
Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research
Faculty of Human and Health Sciences
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-68833
Email: benjamin.schuezprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de