Fake news spreads faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.
The highly respected team of Health Feedback and the Credibility Coalition examined the 100 most popular health articles of 2018. Sources included popular websites like NPR, CNN, Daily Mail and many others.
They didn’t like what they found!
Out of the Top 10
In fact, out of the Top 100 articles, less than half received a “high credibility” rating.
Why is this happening?
#1: The Writers
Many writers seemed to have an agenda and are willing to “bend” the data to suit it. Others lack the necessary knowledge to draw a supportable conclusion from the “information” they presented.
#2 The Publishers
While some stories are designed to provoke, like the one asserting that bacon is as harmful as cigarettes (587k shares), others have the potential to cause serious harm.
One Guardian story: “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?” (469k shares) was deemed “not credible and potentially harmful.” This article asserted most cases of depression are the result of a lack of life fulfillment as opposed to imbalances in brain chemistry. They didn’t offer one shred of supporting research.
Health Feedback concludes much of the misleading reporting is due to “click bait”, sensationalized headlines designed to seize readers’ attention. If a story elicits surprise or fear or disgust, people are more likely to share it.
“This means that the general public is more likely to come into contact with misleading information than accurate ones on social media,” says the research team.
The Medical Establishment has begun to react…
The AMA Journal of Ethics has called on clinicians to clear the air for their patients because they realize fake news poses a public health threat. One example: the viral spread of anti-vaccination content.
How can you protect yourself and your love ones from being taken in?
Health Feedback found that fake health news predominantly spreads on Facebook which accounts for 96% of shares of the top 100 articles.
Susan Krenn, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, told Fast Company:
“It’s a challenge, because when you see something posted on your social media site that comes from one of your peers, colleagues, or family members, you are more likely to believe it,” said Krenn.
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