Internet users beware, you follow online health rumors (more than counter-rumors) irrespective of risk propensity and prior endorsement

  • Anjan Pal, Snehasish Banerjee
  • Information Technology and People, December 2020, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/itp-02-2019-0097

Internet users follow online health rumors more than facts!!!

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

What is it about?

The Internet is a breeding ground for rumors. A way to tackle the problem involves the use of counter-rumors—messages that refute rumors. When users are unbeknownstly exposed to both a rumor and its counter-rumor, which entry is likely to be followed more than the other? This intriguing question is what the paper explores. Intention to follow is defined as users’ decision to act as recommended by a message. The paper also teases out the roles played by individuals’ risk propensity and messages’ prior endorsement on intention to follow.

Why is it important?

Online health rumors have serious repercussions. For one, most people seek health information online as one of the first tasks after experiencing a health concern. Moreover, they often intend to follow online messages to make healthcare decisions without consulting medics. Health rumors therefore can mislead users, duping them into taking actions that they would not have taken otherwise.


Dr Snehasish Banerjee
University of York

Previous research found that rumors travel faster than facts. This paper goes a step further to find that rumors are followed more than facts! It is high time that people start fact-checking every piece of online content instead of taking its veracity for granted.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Snehasish Banerjee and Dr Anjan Pal

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