Defining misinformation and related terms: a scoping review of the health-related literature

Session Type
Communicating evidence including misinformation and research transparency
El Mikati IK1, Hoteit RA2, Harb T3, El Zein O2, Piggott T4, Melki J5, Akl EA2, Mustafa RA1
1University of Kansas Medical Center, USA
2American University of Beirut, Lebanon
3Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA
4McMaster University, Canada
5Lebanese American University, Lebanon

Background: Misinformation poses a serious challenge to clinical and policy decision making in the health field which rely on accurate and reliable information. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified interest in misinformation and related terms and witnessed a proliferation of definitions.
Objectives: We aim to assess definitions of misinformation and related terms used in the health-related literature.
Methods: We conducted a scoping review of systematic reviews that addressed misinformation in the field of health and reported on at least one definition for misinformation or related terms. We searched Ovid Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane, and Epistemonikos databases for reviews published within the last five years. We identified definition concepts and analyzed their use across misinformation related terms.
Results: We included 25 eligible systematic reviews, which contained 48 definitions for misinformation and related terms (13 for misinformation, 12 for disinformation, 15 for infodemic, 7 for fake news, and 1 for malinformation). Out of all the definitions, 34 (71%) were referenced from other sources. We mapped the differnet terms against the concepts of inaccuracy, intentionality, and being misleading. The definitions were largely consistent, but we did not identify any guidance on operationalizing the concepts addressed in those definitions
Conclusions: This scoping review of the health literature identified several definitions for misinformation and related terms that were largely consistent but not operationalized. Additional research is needed to operationalize the defintions of misinformation and related terms.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: No patients or members of the public were involved in the current scoping review.