Post Publication Independent Review of

“COVID-19: the medium is the message”

Table of Contents:

Post Publication Independent Review of “COVID-19: the medium is the message”

Published at:

Twitter Communication Link:

Publons Review Link:


Post Publication Independent Review of

COVID-19: the medium is the message

Laurie Garrett

Published: March 11, 2020


Review Comments:

1. Quote "In a world of polarising distrust and trade tensions, the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), both within nations and internationally, is aided and abetted by misinformation that circumnavigates the planet in microseconds. Such misinformation is not all malevolent, although its impact can be devastating. " End of Quote.

The statement of the authors speaks for itself.

Attention is drawn to the Migrant Labour exodus which caused the Prime Minister to intervene and apologise.

Attention is further drawn to the Tablighi Jamaat event (attracting media attention while this review is being written), which has potential for further inconvenience, due to misinformation.

2. Quote "Some have sought to limit misinformation about COVID-19 on social media by pressuring corporations, such as Facebook, Weibo, and Twitter, to censor bad actors" End of Quote.

This may be the need of hour, but it is not sure how far censure of Facebook, Weibo or Twitter will help, when the main source of information could be mainstream media, and social media only adds more color and flavour to mainstream media reporting.

3. Quote "The “truth” can, and should, change as investigations and data analysis of COVID-19 proceed, but its bottom line ought to consistently reflect empiricism, a solid dose of scepticism and scrutiny, and absolute conviction in timely dissemination of life-saving research and analysis. And those bastions must resist attempts to sway their messaging to reflect institutional or political interests." End of Quote.

Reading together with content from this research article quoted in Review Comments 1-3, along with the review comments provided in the same serial numbers, provides a "not too rosy" picture.

Accompany this with "wilful miscommunication" and "nonwilful miscommunication", the negative effects can be devastating.

Correct information should be disseminated and misinformation should be censured, to prevent negative backlashes from a population that is already suffering with a prolonged lockdown, accompanied with personal, social and misinformation stress, and a psychotic fear of the unknown due to COVID-19.

Suggested that a suitable team be put in to watch, censure and take corrective immediate action on miscommunication.

4. Quote "However, there is even less funding for professional communications staffing at WHO, the various Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia, or their counterpart offices nested in local departments of public health. If the media isn't getting the message, in all likelihood the messengers have insufficient resources for delivery." End of Quote.

The authors point out a pathetic state of affairs globally.

Disease containment and treatment protocols may take center stage, but at the same time, Professional Communications and Censure of Miscommunication need to be given priority immediate attention, so that the efforts of disease containment and treatment protocols reap the success of their efforts. Polarisation of any section of the society, wilful & nonwilful noncooperation by the stressed members of the society may have a weighted negative effect. Attention is drawn to migrant labor exodus and the Tablighi Jamaat event, both of which have the potential of alienating/polarising sections of the society accompanied with wilful & nonwilful noncooperation by the stressed members of the society. If political polarisation also moves in, the effects can be more devastating.

Consequently, Professional Communications should be given a more important part in the disease containment and treatment protocols of the COVID-19 outbreak.

5. Quote "The current global COVID-19 epidemic features mechanisms of delivery of scientific information that are frankly unprecedented, adding to pressure for proper interpretation by the media and public. Scientific and medical publications are expediting research and analysis through peer review, while preprint services are publishing unreviewed work. Some researchers are engaging in open online venues, debating the calculus of crucial epidemic COVID-19 features, such as its basic reproduction number (R0), case fatality rates, age and gender distributions of severe and deceased cases, or the accuracy of case reporting, itself. Those debates have fuelled media reporting, even when the evidence is still uncertain and research is ongoing." End of Quote.

These observations by the authors strengthen the review comments presented above.

6. Quote "The difficulty in sifting fact from inaccurate information is aggravated by the speed of unfolding events, how much is still to be researched and understood by scientists and clinicians about COVID-19" End of Quote.

These observations by the authors strengthen the review comments presented above.

7. Quote "Had China allowed physician Li Wenliang and his brave Wuhan colleagues to convey their suspicions regarding a new form of infectious pneumonia to colleagues, social media, and journalists without risking sanction, and had local officials not for weeks released false epidemic information to the world, we might not now be facing a pandemic. Had Japanese officials allowed full disclosure of their quarantine and testing procedures aboard the marooned Princess Diamond cruise ship, crucial attention might have helped prevent spread aboard the ship and concern in other countries regarding home return of potentially infectious passengers. Had Shincheonji Church and its supporters within the South Korean Government not refused to provide the names and contact information on its members and blocked journalists' efforts to decipher spread of the virus in its ranks, lives in that country might have been spared infection, illness, and death. Had Iran's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, and members of the country's ruling council not tried to convince the nation that the COVID-19 situation was “almost stabilised”, even as Harirchi visibly suffered from the disease while on camera, the Middle East might not now find itself in grave danger from the spread of the disease, with Saudi Arabia suspending visas for pilgrims seeking to visit Mecca and Medina. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has free and open journalism, and both nations seek to control narratives through social media censorship, imprisonment, or even execution. And had the Trump administration not declared criticism of its slow response to the encroaching epidemic a “hoax”, claiming it was a political attack from the left, the US CDC might have been pressured to do widespread testing in early February, discovering pockets of community transmission before they dispersed widely." End of Quote.

The authors are now presenting observations on a case by case basis.

This post-publication review does not comment on the political observations quoted in Review 7, but seeks to draw insights that can help to improve current disease containment and treatment protocols of COVID-19.

It is quite possible that there could be deeply rooted in the observation (content quoted in Review 7), some aspect of miscommunication, which has found its way to the authors to a research article. If the miscommunication had been handled at the initial stages itself, it would not have found its way to various published content (print or electronic), and eventually into a research article. After a long time, the actual communication might have been forgotten from societal memory, but only the miscommunication may be remembered.

If the future should not bring out such or similar observations due to wilful or nonwilful miscommunication that can find its way into print & electronic media eventually landing in research articles, then it is essential that a suitable structure be put in to handle correct Professional Communications on Disease Containment and Treatment Protocols and Associated Processes.

8. Quote "If governments, agencies, and health organisations want people at risk of infection to respond to COVID-19 with an appropriate level of alert, to cooperate with health authorities, and to act with compassion and humanity, I believe that they must be willing to fund their messengers on an unprecedented scale, with genuine urgency. It's time to put information in the driver's seat of global and national epidemic responses." End of Quote.

The authors are presenting an insight here that can speak for itself and may not need a review comment.

9. Quote "When WHO named the disease COVID-19, the choice was based on scientific standards. But it also matters how the global public might use the name. COVID-19 seems to be a tough term for news media worldwide and the general public. Perhaps even more confusing to the general public is the notion that the disease and the virus (SARS-CoV-2) have seemingly unrelated monikers. Parts of the media have settled for calling the microbial threat the coronavirus. One assumption could be that no expert in communications was asked to weigh in on the namings. But had WHO given serious consideration to future control of the public narrative, the agency's communications staff would have had opportunity to capture online brands and social media monikers before public announcement, such as #COVID19 or a myriad of Facebook page names using permutations of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. This was not done, and online public discourse using those tags is in private hands." End of Quote.

The authors are presenting an insight here that can speak for itself and may not need a review comment.

10. Quote "Scientists and public health leaders, from local city tiers all the way to WHO headquarters in Geneva, need to understand that press conferences and government media releases are necessary, but are not enough in the emotionally charged atmosphere of 24/7 virally distributed social media stories and news about COVID-19, laced with sensationalism, at times massaged by some government agencies, and exploited by trolls and disruptors. Getting ahead of COVID-19 requires not only slowing its spread, adequate funding for the health response, supporting research to advance our knowledge of it, integrated actions to mitigate the health, economic, and social impacts of the epidemic, among others, but also control of narratives regarding its scientific and clinical attributes and pandemic containment efforts—an effort that I do not think can be successful if executed on inadequate budgets by sleep-deprived communicators." End of Quote.

The authors are presenting an insight here that can speak for itself and may not need a review comment.

11. Quote "Social media companies like Facebook, Google, WeChat, YouTube, Amazon, and Instagram are devoting some resources to identifying and removing disease trolls and liars from their internet services. But these social media platforms remain packed with anti-science and conspiracy claims. " End of Quote.

This observation by the authors strengthen the need for a National Level Activity to disseminate authentic information, while at the same time, censuring wilful and nonwilful miscommunication.

12. Quote "Public fear in some sectors is rising as COVID-19 spreads in many countries. I propose a potential mechanism to help allay fear. " End of Quote.

This observation, if exhibited by society, has the potential to derail the good efforts undertaken for the containment and spread of outbreak of COVID-19.

13. Quote "As Canadian social analyst Marshall McLuhan put it in the 1960s, “The medium is the message”, and today that message is chaos." End of Quote.

If the observation of the authors is correct, then it can potentially derail all good activity undertaken with regard to COVID-19.

Further, the Disaster Management Bill of 2005 (Disaster Management Act of 2005) does not seem to discuss about Media Censure of wilful and nonwilful miscommunication, which is an immediate concern .

It is upto to the National Governments now, to create order from chaos, establish a suitable structure for communication, monitor and censure wilful and nonwilful miscommunication, identify potentially polarising (political, religious, ethnic, discriminatory, etc.) miscommunication and ensure that polarisation of society does not take place, so that the containment and treatment processes of COVID-19, and further rehabilitation/recovery of the Nation (from devastation due to COVID-19) is able to be done on a good scale.

COVID-19 and its devastation (whether it be due to deterioration of health or polarisation due to miscommunication), has the potential to make/break Governments, which will again fall back on the society as more stress in related areas, and may lead to cyclic devastating processes.

Consequently, Professional Communications needs to be given due significance in COVID-19 processes, and identification & censure of miscommunication needs to be done at microlevel, and suitable structures established to achieve it, so that the massive efforts of disease containment and treatment processes of COVID-19 may reap the success expected of their efforts.

Linked from:

Published at:

Twitter Communication Link:

Publons Review Link:

Article Reviewed:

Annexure to IJBST Journal Group Editorial Policy: