Consuming instant noodles would kill you, vaccines are harmful, and a group of scientists is trying to hire the cure for cancer: These are just a few of the most viral fake news on public health last year.
Fake news was an important matter in 2019. In response to increasing pressure health experts, doctors, and lawmakers, many social media companies introduced considerable changes to limit or ban the spread of health misinformation that had been existing for many years.
The most viral fake health news suggested several conspiracies between medical communities and governments and introduced a few common medical treatments for fatal diseases. The top 50 articles attracted approximately 12 million interactions, including reactions, comments, and shares, primarily on Facebook.
Though researchers think that poor journalism would misinform the public, the statistics do not include those articles from valid news outlets that could have access to false conclusions, inflate the results of studies, or cover flawed reports.
According to a recent analysis by the NBC news, up to 80 percent of online users are searching for health information on the Internet.
The most viral fake news about health last year was on the themes of vaccines, unproven cures, and cancer. These misinformed articles even dominated the overall news.
The consequences of health fake news would be far-reaching.
The most common concerns for health experts are prevention efforts and compliance with health treatments.
It would result in the low levels of vaccination that can be below herd immunity and harmful effects on kids whose parents care for their well-being and health. Instead, parents choose other homeopathic or alternative treatments and only turn to necessary treatments when the effectiveness is reduced.
More importantly, health fake news would affect trust between patients and doctors, governments and citizens, as well as among many other institutions. Mistrust in pharmaceutical firms and health institutions, of course, would be legitimate, particularly for those areas that are in the target of unethical research.
In most cases, consumers in many online medical conspiracies are often reoriented to homeopathic treatments. These pieces of health fake news tend to provide a welcoming and expensive alternative.
Though the issue is becoming quite obvious, there is still no solution. Fact checks for fake news are quite rare. Public health communities need to do better in reaching more audiences and creating better storytelling, visualizations, as well as contents.