Abstract

This paper seeks to understand the phenomenon of fake news and its’ particular application in the areas of medical misinformation. A review of the literature shows that there is an increase in the amount of fake news and medical misinformation available, especially through social media channels.

The paper examines the rise of fake news and how a particular section of this – medical misinformation – has increased over the past several years. The research shows that the increase in medical misinformation has led to an increase in patient harm and has even led to death.

By completing a comprehensive review of the literature on medical misinformation, the authors are able to show that such misinformation is spread quickly and with little cost to the producer/disseminator. The motivations behind the production and dissemination of medical misinformation are examined as they are not based on financial factors alone.

The authors also examine how medical misinformation has changed public perception in a number of cases, leading to large scale outbreaks of infectious disease, poisonings, and other harmful outcomes.

At a time when massive vaccination attempts are being made due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the dissemination of medical misinformation could hamper public health efforts. Although, at the current time (2021), a large amount of the reporting and research on medical misinformation is based around COVID-19, the authors have attempted to make this paper more generally based around all medical misinformation.

The impact of social media on the spread of medical misinformation is also examined. The authors show that social media is one of the main channels for the dissemination of medical misinformation, in no small part due to the very low cost and the speed that information can be shared with millions.

Finally, the paper suggests that policymakers, social media leaders, journalists, researchers, scientists, and medical providers must all work quickly to challenge this and to put in place robust solutions to reduce the rise of medical information.

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