How to Respond to COVID-19: Stopping the Spread of Misinformation

March 27, 2020


With around 20% of the world’s population currently under COVID-19 lockdown, you are probably reading this through an Internet browser at home. COVID-19 has restricted our ability to receive daily medical news in a slow, considered way, and for many, sit face-to-face with our regular doctor. In place of this, the Internet has exploded into a repository of ‘real-life stories’, ‘top 10 facts’, and ‘tips for staying healthy,’ from a variety of sources. 

But, we have another pandemic on our hands: the spread of misinformation online. So as you start your day and log on to your computer, how do you know that the information you’re consuming on COVID-19 isn’t a mutation of the truth? 

COVID-19 online misinformation is getting out of hand, so much so, that the UK government  and NHS publicly called on Internet platforms for support. We know that restricting the spread of misinformation, restricts the spread of the virus. 

With this in mind, Purpose will be putting medical expertise at the heart of all our work on COVID-19, and where possible bringing those voices to the forefront. We’re also prioritising partnerships with large Internet platforms who have the ability and responsibility to counter misinformation with accurate advice.

Our advice on countering COVID-19 misinformation:

  1. Always seek the advice of medical experts or reference national government advice.

  2. When speaking to a global audience be aware that medical guidance will vary from geography to geography – be sure to mention this if you can’t cater to the variations.

  3. Work with reliable distribution partners and supportive community teams, who can advise you on the best times, places and influencers to engage with. 

  4. Misinformation spreads through communities rather than a central source. A bottom up approach, working with trusted influencers within the community is the most effective way of tackling this.

  5. COVID-19 guidance is changing every day: Prioritise getting the message out fast – this might mean that you need to compromise on the creative. Always reference the date shared and link to the most up-to-date medical resources.


Examples of our work to tackle misinformation on COVID-19

We were honoured to work with Dr Rita Issa, an Academic Clinical Fellow in General Practice NHS England, who has dedicated her time outside of treating COVID-19 patients to sharing accurate information and guidance with the general public. 

At a time when small behaviour changes such as handwashing could save lives, we felt the need to share this simple message as widely as possible. Purpose teamed up with video producers, VideoRev to produce a short video with Rita on her top 5 tips for becoming a COVID-19 ‘super preventer.’ Distribution and engagement was led by our partners, Tumblr who initiated a Q&A ‘Answer Time’ giving their community the opportunity to receive Rita’s expert advice on COVID-19.


As the days progress, the NHS guidance to ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’ is becoming more critical than ever. We set out to amplify this statement through an engaging animation, with additional advice voiced by Rita. After just one day live on Twitter, the video was shared by leading UK government figures.



Over the coming weeks, Purpose will be posting to our blog to share resources and live examples of how we are rapidly changing and adapting our campaigns & projects across the world in rapid response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our hope is that others doing critical work will be able to use these learnings to help navigate for their own initiatives. Now more than ever we need to be fighting for those who are most vulnerable and at risk – this needs everyone.




Hannah Sharpe Campaign Director
Choose Both: A Digital Guide
for Equity & Evidence