Saturday, December 10, 2016

Avoid Fake Health News: How to Fact Check

With 62% of Americans getting their news from social media and 44% relying on Facebook, it’s not surprising that ‘”fake news” is big business. In fact, it’s considered to have played a role in the recent election.

Those with chronic and life threatening conditions are particularly vulnerable as those touting “Miracle cures” use phony news reports to boost their products and scams. Fake health news can pop up on everything from Facebook pages to the inbox of your e-mail account.

If you do a search on a particular health item, you’ll notice in the days and weeks to come all sorts of stuff relating to that condition will appear  Don’t buy into it. Protect yourself and others by following these simple rules:

Rule # 1: Fact Check before posting information or passing it along to others. Even a trusted friend can buy into fake news, so make it a regular practice to check before forwarding. Use the following resources:

Snopes:  Best place to make sure you aren’t falling for an urban legend, folklore, myth etc. They include their source at the end of each article. You can also do searches at the website

• FactCheck.Org: Because of the political nature of healthcare, this site, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is one to bookmark as well. With all the rumors about the end of Obamacare, this is a good place to check for what’s fact and what isn’t. They have a very good article ‘Broke’ and Because of ACA? About Paul Ryan’s falsely claiming that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” 

• Health Info Lines:  From the National Institutes of Health, pick up the phone and call to find out if information you are reading about on line, learned about at a support group etc. is accurate

Medline Plus  When people tell you they read about new health research, if it’s actually been published, it will appear under Today’s Health News at Medline Plus. This is a good one-stop shop, because you can also check out the Clinical Trials that are currently recruiting. Another site that’s good to check for health research is Science Daily

• Compare article to other sources. If other reputable news sources aren’t picking it up it’s likely to be fake news.

• Take a closer look at the website and check the URL. Some fake news groups post slightly altered URLs making you believe the source is a reputable one.

• Check the date: Health information changes rapidly and if this is a story that was popular three years ago, it may have been disproven since then.

• In general be careful of social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Their purpose is social not news.

Rule #2: Recognize that some things are intended to be fake, such as The Onion; The Borowitz Report-New Yorker column; Duffel Blog; Newslo; Weekly World News; Clickhole, which are designed to be satirical in nature should not be considered a reliable source of health news. As far as outright hoaxes avoid American News; and Activist Post.

Rule #3: Do not pass on any information until you have checked it carefully. Review Rule #1

So what happens if you do fall victim to fake news? Besides alerting others  in your situation, and your state’s attorney general’s office, according to Derigan Silver, a professor of media, First Amendment and Internet law at the University of Denver, you can take legal action. You can learn more about this at “What Legal Recourse Do Victims of Fake News Stories Have? 

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