Health websites are notoriously misleading. So we rate its reliability

Jul 26, 2019 | | Say something

FFor millions of Americans, including health professionals, measles resurgence is a confusing and frightening development. How can a disease declared eliminated almost two decades ago come back when it can be prevented with a vaccine that has proven safe and effective?


But that is not the reality for those who get their health information from online sources like NaturalNews.com, one of the many health-focused sites that offer false and misleading claims to large audiences.

NaturalNews.com was founded by Mike Adams, who claims to have cured his own type 2 diabetes with natural remedies. Through a network of more than 200 websites, with names like VaccineHolocaust.org Y Healthfreedom.newsAdams has long promoted the discredited claim that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.


During the current outbreak, this network of websites has proclaimed several falsehoods, such as stating that most people infected with measles in the state of Washington had already been vaccinated. In fact, as of July 22, the state health department says that only Four of the 87 measles. The cases reported this year involve patients who had received two doses of the MMR vaccine.

According to the analysis of my employer, NewsGuard, NaturalNews.com Articles have declared the measles outbreak as "Fake flag“It originated with“ infected migrants. ”Similarly, the Adams network has reported that an outbreak in New Hampshire was caused by the vaccine itself (a false statement based on state officials who have wrong someone's reaction to the vaccine as a confirmed case of measles). And the network has been trusting in an old episode of "Brady Bunch" as evidence that a measles infection is "typically very mild, very similar to chicken pox," overlooking the serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis that usually accompany the disease.

NaturalNews.com It is not alone, according to NewsGuard, a service run by a journalist who evaluates the reliability of news and information websites using basic and apolitical criteria of journalism.

NewsGuard has rated and provided "Nutrition Labels" for the almost 3,000 news and information websites that represent 96% of the online commitment in the US. UU. And while websites that offer political conspiracies and disinformation in Russia generate considerable attention, NewsGuard data indicates that websites that promote disinformation about health are at least as alarming.

Americans consume an unhealthy health disinformation diet. Of the sites analyzed by NewsGuard, 11% provide erroneous health information; In other words, more than 1 in 10 news websites that Americans access includes bad health information.

NewsGuard uses nine basic journalistic criteria to rate websites, designating each of them as green because they are generally reliable or because red is generally unreliable. Of all sites with red ratings, 37% publish false or unfounded health claims.

In the last 90 days, these sites represented more than 49 million commitments (actions, likes, comments, etc.) on social networks, more than the most important news websites such as NPR, Business Insider or Forbes. In a recent Facebook search for "vaccines and CDC" Several of the results on the first page come from websites classified as NewsGuard Network..

NewsGuard was co-founded last year by journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill (known in part for his health care reports) and former Wall Street Journal editor Gordon Crovitz. When rating news and information sites in the US USA, Italy, USA The USA, France and Germany, a diverse spectrum of health sites has been discovered. These range from peer-reviewed medical journals with ecological qualification, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, to hundreds of conspiracy-minded sites rated in red, such as NaturalNews.com Y Colectiva-evolucion.com, where you can find stories about the autism of vaccines along with articles that claim that the terrorist attacks of September 11 were organized.

Americans looking for symptoms or diseases online can find well-obtained health information on sites like WebMD or Healthline. But also in the search results and social networks are sites with names like GreenMedInfo and Healthy Holistic Living, which are presented as authorized reference guides on health issues while also based on false claims and false sources to promote Alternative medical treatments

While these two sites promote a refuted link between vaccines and autism, their deceptive practices go beyond questioning the safety of vaccines. GreenMedInfo is one of the many sites rated by NewsGuard that presents marijuana as a proven cure for cancer, stating in a December 2018 article, for example, that "medical marijuana is chemotherapy, natural style, for cancer patients." (The broader scientific reviews have reached a different conclusion; 2017 report on the marijuana of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine determined "there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for cancers."

These sites sometimes refer to multiple peer-reviewed studies, giving your claims an air of credibility that vanishes on a close inspection. A headline on Healthy Holistic Life says:Studies show that magnesium treats ADHD better and safer than ADHD medications"But none of the four studies cited supported that conclusion; in fact, three of the four did not even mention ADHD. The one who did it, a 2014 study published in Children magazine, contradicted the claims of the article. The site later edited the story after being contacted to receive comments from NewsGuard.

This plague of misinformation about health is presented in many fevers, from the apparently innocuous (there is no solid evidence behind the idea that Epsom salt baths heal sore muscles) to potentially dangerous ones (if you take tonsil, vitamin B17 or laetrile, different names for In the same "cure for cancer" discredited for a long time, you may experience side effects that reflect the symptoms of cyanide poisoning.

The belief in natural or alternative medicine is often driven by distrust of doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Ironically, transparency practices in reliable health sites can reinforce the suspicions of skeptics. For example, when reviewing the transparency practices of the Mayo Clinic website, for example, NewsGuard found that 19 of the site's medical editors had accepted payments from pharmaceutical companies or medical devices between 2013 and 2017. The site could not provide No example in which an editor The financial interest in a product was mentioned in an article by Mayo Clinic. These possible conflicts of interest aside, MayoClinic.org Provides reliable and good-source health information, with your articles reviewed by doctors and other medical professionals.

Unfortunately, reputable websites such as the Mayo Clinic are often not the ones that news consumers look for the answers. When it comes to the commitment to social networks, for example, Mayo Clinic is being surpassed by people like Herbs-Info.com, which states that vaccinated children are "More sick" that the unvaccinated; ReturnToNow.net, who claims raw unpasteurized milk It can be used to treat cancer; Y HealthyFoodHouse.com, which promotes the cure of everything Alkaline diet"Non-acidic foods that supposedly lower pH levels in the blood and organs (which are actually regulated by the lungs and kidneys and cannot be modified by dietary modification).

Each of these sites has accumulated more than one million shares of its articles on Facebook during the last 90 days, ranking in the first 700 news and information sites in terms of participation in social networks, according to NewsGuard data. MayoClinic.org It has not deciphered the first 3,000 websites.

John Gregory, a former TriMed Media health care reporter, is an analyst for NewsGuard. For more information about NewsGuard, go to Newsguardtech.com by its criteria to evaluate news websites and a link to download your free browser extension or access your ratings on mobile phones through Microsoft Edge.


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