Facebook and Fake Health News - Part 2

Aug 23, 2017

Do Johns Hopkins Cancer Center and the Mayo Clinic sound like reliable sources to you? They do to the folks who write fake health news too.

Both Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic keep their media departments hopping, issuing press releases to disprove the stories they have been mentioned in. Last week on “To Your Health” I explained how prevalent fake health news has become and how dangerous it can be. This week, we will look at how to avoid it.

The authors of fake health news often try to lend credibility to their articles by mentioning well known health organizations or describing their sources as doctors. If you are reading claims that seem implausible, but seem to be supported by reputable sources, do an online search for the story’s details, plus the word “myth” or “hoax”. You might find it’s already been critiqued. If the authors claim the findings were published in a journal, search for that journal online to see if it is peer-reviewed, which means it was sent out for scrutiny by scientists working in the same field before being published.

Look at the site the story is coming from. Red flags include: articles with words like “miracle” and “secret,” hyperbolic descriptions, lack of dates and contact information, ads, endorsements of products or links to buy a product.

This might seem like a lot of extra work to stop and fact check as you are scrolling through Facebook, but your health, and the health of others could depend on it.

Resources:
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/webresources
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170207-how-to-spot-misleading-health-news
http://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2017-05-23/medical-news-real-or-fake
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/news_events/featured/cancer_update_email_it_is_a_hoax.html
http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/misleading-aspirin-email/