An “infodemic” is defined as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – occurring during an epidemic”. This paper describes the characteristics of an infodemic, which combines an inordinately high volume of information (leading to problems relating to locating the information, storage capacity, ensuring quality, visibility and validity) and rapid output (making it hard to assess its value, manage the gatekeeping process, apply results, track its history, and leading to a waste of effort). This is bound up with the collateral growth of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. Solutions to the problems posed by an infodemic will be sought in improved technology and changed social and regulatory frameworks. One solution could be a new trusted top-level domain for health information. The World Health Organization has so far made two unsuccessful attempts to create such a domain, but it is suggested this could be attempted again, in the light of the COVID-19 infodemic experience. The vital role of reliable information in public health should also be explicitly recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals, with explicit targets. All countries should develop knowledge preparedness plans for future emergencies.
Opinion and analysis