The cough method of CPR, the danger of the HPV vaccine, cancer-causing Nutella and the Zika virus conspiracy are just a few of the most popular health related posts on Facebook. They are also dangerous because they are highly inaccurate.
According to Pew Research, 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media. This led to “fake news” problems often cited during the last election cycle, but studies have recently confirmed that fake health news shared on Facebook is more frequently read than accurate stories from reliable sources.
A study by scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Tulane University School of Medicine examined what happened on Facebook when it came to spreading the word about the Zika virus. A video, called “10 reasons why Zika virus fear is a fraudulent medical hoax,” was watched more than 530,000 times and shared by over 19,600 users, while a press release by the World Health Organization was viewed 43,000 times and shared by 964 Facebook users. The consequence was that more mothers did not take the threat of Zika-related microcephaly seriously.
How did this happen? There are multiple theories, but most point to sites making money from ads when people view click-bait style medical stories and people being more likely to read and believe something shared by someone they trust.
So now that we know how prevalent fake health news is and why we fall for it, how can we be more savvy at avoiding it? Listen next week for those tips or find them, and other truthful health information, at krcu.org.