While social media operates on the attention logic, those with many followers have a higher potential to escalate issues. Celebrities started sharing information about the pandemic, but not all stars play the same role. Some educate and motivate the public about vaccination, while others spread disinformation content to their followers.
After the pandemic outbreak, some celebrities started sharing disinformation about the crisis. A may 2021 research study found that only 12 stars are behind the most hoax content producing about 65% of the content; the content included claims denying that Covid-19 exists or spreading false cures. Facebook responded by saying it took more content shared by these accounts, while Twitter permanently suspended two of the accounts. In some cases, some of these celebrities disinform the public by mixing their personal views and speculation with facts. For instance, Madonna, the well-known singer and actor with 15 million Instagram followers, claimed that the vaccine exists, but it was concealed to let fear control the people. Some malicious actors even decided to utilize the celebrities’ power to spread false information about the Covid-19. In July 2021, a news report exposed a London-based marketing company that attempted to pay some of the influencers in exchange for sharing disinformation content. The company provided them with lists of dubious articles and sources that claim the Pfizer vaccine is dangerous.
But celebrities also have been playing a positive role. They involuntarily share correct information about the crisis by posting their photos of getting the vaccine to motivate their followers. In other cases, they are being hired by governments and companies. For instance, Biden’s administration planned to use celebrities to combat vaccine hesitancy. In the UK, the NHS listed sensible celebrities to persuade the public to get their vaccine shot, and drug companies such as AstraZeneca also tapped into the power of celebrities to influence the public about the vaccine.
Celebrities will keep playing a significant role in this ongoing crisis. Tech companies should work more on monitoring the shared covid related content; media literacy groups should design materials that help the public not blindly follow the celebrities’ content. Health information organizations should work directly with celebrities to supply them with updated information and fact about the pandemic.