A National Strategy to Counter COVID-19 Misinformation

Authors: Amir Bagherpour and Ali Nouri


The United States accounts for over 20% of global deaths related to COVID-19 despite only having 4% of the world’s population. This unacceptable reality is in part due to the tsunami of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 that has flooded our nation. Misinformation not only decreases current compliance with best practices for containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, but will also feed directly into resistance against future administration of a vaccine or additional public-health measures.

The next administration should establish an office at the Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to combating COVID-19 misinformation. This office should lead a coordinated effort that

  1. Ensures that evidence-based findings are at the core of COVID-19 response strategies.

  2. Utilizes data science and behavioral analytics to detect and counter COVID-19 misinformation.

  3. Works with social-media companies to remove misinformation from online platforms.

  4. Partners with online influencers to promote credible information about COVID-19.

  5. Encourages two-way conversations between public-health officials and the general public.

  6. Ensures that public-health communications are supported by on-the-ground action.

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About the Authors

Amir Bagherpour is a social scientist and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). His areas of expertise are disinformation risk, crisis and conflict risk forecasting, and emerging technologies. Dr. Bagherpour is a Principal Director and Senior Data Scientist at Accenture. Dr. Bagherpour previously served as Director of Data Analytics in the Office of the Secretary of State and as Chief of Advanced Analytics at the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Dr. Bagherpour has a Ph.D. in Political Science with an emphasis in Quantitative Methods from Claremont Graduate University and an MBA from the University of California Irvine. He graduated from West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies and Systems Engineering.

Ali Nouri, a molecular biologist, is President of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), an organization that for the last 75 years has been at the forefront of addressing global risks that range from nuclear weapons to disinformation to pandemics. Dr. Nouri serves on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Global Diplomacy Roundtable, where he chairs the subcommittee on disinformation. Dr. Nouri has published in the fields of virology, cell biology, developmental biology and public policy. Prior to assuming his role at FAS, Dr. Nouri served in Congress advising Senators Jim Webb and Al Franken over a ten-year period in roles including legislative director, national security advisor, energy and environment advisor, and science and technology advisor. He began his Senate career as an AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow. Nouri received a B.A. in Biology from Reed College and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University.