Sorting falsehoods from facts

Inaccurate health information is pervasive. Here's how to find out if what you're reading is true.

Published: March, 2021

From conspiracy theories about COVID-19 to unsubstantiated or even dangerous product claims, false health information is everywhere these days. This includes both misinformation (incorrect statements spread by someone who essentially doesn't know better) and disinformation (false information being spread deliberately by a bad actor to promote an agenda).

"Health misinformation and disinformation have always been with us. It's nothing new," says Kasisomayajula Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "We had snake-oil salesmen when advertising began. But what's different this time around is the scale." Both mass media and social media are allowing bad information to reach large swaths of people quickly, making it difficult for many people to differentiate the good from the bad.

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