[Air-L] Of interest- Responding to Online Abuse: What We Heard from Health Communicators

Jaigris Hodson Jaigris.Hodson at RoyalRoads.ca
Thu Jun 22 08:25:26 PDT 2023

Hello AoIR-istas!

Led by Heidi Tworek and Chris Tenove (UBC), our multi-institutional team, including researchers at the University of British Columbia, Royal Roads University, and University of Ottawa in Canada has conducted research into the online abuse of health communicators, and produced a report that may be of interest to many of you.

The pandemic created an unprecedented demand for health communication. Public health officials, health experts, and medical practitioners increased their engagement online to address a surge in public demand for information. To play these roles, health communicators intensified their use of social media platforms. Some health communicators identified specific underserved communities to address, such as the South Asian community, the Black community, seniors, and the homeless or under-housed. They also tried to address widespread misinformation (created inadvertently), and disinformation (intentionally spread for political and economic aims).

In making these efforts, health communicators too often faced abuse or threats. A global survey by Nature<https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02741-x> of scientists who discussed the pandemic on news media or social media found over two-thirds reported negative experiences, 22 per cent received threats of physical or sexual violence, and 15 per cent received death threats.

Many Canadian news articles have documented online abuse of health communicators, but to date there is no rigorous research on the topic. Nor are there detailed recommendations for how individuals and institutions should address this problem.

To help fill this gap, we hosted workshops with health communicators on January 26, 2023 (21 participants) and March 6, 2023 (16 participants). Participants included chief medical officers, communications staff for public health authorities, nurses, physicians, independent science communicators, and communicators at civil society health organizations.

This report summarizes insights from those workshops, along with current scholarship, regarding:

  *   forms of online abuse on different platforms;

  *   impacts of online abuse;

  *   relationship between online abuse and the personal identities of health communicators;

  *   forms of support that health communicators access, or wish to access;

  *   possible next steps for research or advocacy.

Learn more and download the report at this link: https://democracy.ubc.ca/health/online-abuse-of-health-communicators/responding-to-online-abuse-what-we-heard-from-health-communicators/

Royal Roads is located on the traditional lands of the Xwsepsum and Lekwungen ancestors and families.

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