What a medical doctor sees in social media posts can tell an entirely different picture than the one intended to be told. As the saying goes "the devil is in the details."
When what's absent in a story carries equal or more weight than what is actually reported, the damage goes beyond ratings. It undermines public health.
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is a new book by neurologist and science communicator, Dr. Steven Novella. It is both an easy read and a great reference.
An infectious virus or idea plus a susceptible population can cause the flu, a riot or fake news. A study of the 2005 riots in France finds an epidemiologic explanation.
It's quite easily right at the top of the list. In fact, the scientific method is designed precisely to answer it. Rigorously following a procedure involving observation, hypothesis and tightly-controlled experimentation is what separates science from all other disciplines. OK, you ask, so what's the question? Just click here to find out.
Surely, somebody can stop the most egregious offenders from spreading health misinformation that hurts or kills people, right? Actually, no, not in a free society. The only solution to fake news is better news.
Facebook, a site from which a substantial number of people acquire their daily news, has decided that pages that post fake stories will be banned from advertising. That's a perfectly fine decision, but it raises a bigger and more profound question: Who decides which news is fake? Mark Zuckerberg?
"Fake news" has become a meme — and it's all over the Internet. For example, take a look at a site that claims to provide real evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic in humans. Not only does it cite old data, it has picked a study whose authors don't agree with them. Can you get much more fake than that?
Wonder why "fake news" is taking hold as a concept and a description? Look no further than a recent CNBC article and its accompanying video, showcasing a new blood collection product.
To stay in business, media outlets need viewers. So they give readers what they want, which apparently consists largely of pointless political bickering, epic acts of stupidity and naked people.
Any effort to fight fake news is noble and should be applauded. But, if Mr. Wales believes his new venture will be the solution to fake news, it will fall short for at least four reasons.
Some might argue that democracy not only leads people to believe that all humans are of equal value (which is true), but all humans are equal in their abilities, thoughts, and behaviors (which is completely false). Yet, many people in a democracy believe the latter. And it leads to a very bad outcome.