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Influencers impacting spread of information surrounding COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 13, 2021 at 7:56 pm CDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) – The past 12 months have impacted how influencer Linda Hoang uses her voice. In addition to representing brands, she’s now pushing more ethical and timely content.

And she’s not alone.

“I would say that I’ve definitely become more vocal about social justice and controversial issues,” explained Linda Hoang.

“Talking about vaccines, talking about restrictions, about BLM, about Indigenous matters, I think heavier topics that influencers didn’t talk abut before.”

But while many influencers have shifted to sharing COVID-19 facts, some have leaned the other way.

A video posted to Instagram by Edmonton influencer Kaylor Betts says: “What we can hear is that it’s a race between the variants and the vaccines. No, it’s like, did you know you can get drastically, metabolically healthier in nine days?”

The video has earned more than 700,000 views in just a few days.

“He is simply wrong and these types of videos can do real damage,” explained health policy expert Tim Caulfield. He adds the video fits a growing trend among influencers.

“One of the underlying messages that he has is that lifestyle and exercise and all these things is a way to avoid COVID. Much of what is in that video is just scientifically wrong,” said Caulfield.

Caulfield believes some influencers spreading misinformation could have ulterior motives.

“A lot of other wellness gurus use this type of messaging to build their brand, an opportunity to build their brand, to sell supplements, to sell exercise advice.”

The Edmonton video picked up ample online backlash. And as with many other Instagram stars peddling questionable COVID-19 claims, followers have started pushing back against misinformation.

“[The misinformation] has forced some people to be more ethical or to at least confront why they’re not. I hope the scrutiny stays,” explained Hoang.

Governments have also noticed the power of influencers. Health Canada is hiring people to connect its messaging with Instagram and TikTok users.

Much of the pushback against misinformation comes from people who wouldn’t have been influencers a year ago.

“A lot of fantastic researchers, scientists, clinicians, get on TikTok and do funny videos,” explained Caulfield. “Can the vaccine change your DNA? No it can’t. Does it cause infertility? No it doesn’t. And that’s fantastic.”