Misinformation seems to be everywhere and perhaps nowhere more intense than in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Correcting it is one of the main reasons/ambitions of this blog. But are such activities effective?

A meta-analysis estimated the efficacy of correcting health-related misinformation on social media. To better understand the causal relationship between exposure to corrective messages on social media and subsequent effects on health-related outcomes, the researchers restricted the meta-analysis to experimental studies that attempted to debunk health misinformation.

The findings indicate that correction can often mitigate the influence of misinformation but the size of the effect is usually small to moderate. The pooled effect was comparable with previous meta-analyses that focused on the correction of misinformation in contexts such as crime, politics, and science. The results provide no evidence of a so-called “boomerang” or backfire effect, whereby attempts to correct misinformation can unintentionally increase people’s acceptance of the falsehood.

The authors concluded that, although there is still much to be learned, the current study’s results are cause for optimism. The vast majority of corrective interventions are at least somewhat successful in diminishing the impact of misinformation, and our findings regarding moderating factors should inform future research into designing effective countermeasures. The continued efforts of the broader research community will only further refine our understanding of best practices to address the threat presented by health misinformation on social media.


What better motivator to carry on?

10 Responses to Debunking works!!!

  • And we will never know how many folks are dissuaded from using scams/camistry in the first place – or moderate their interest.

    We who genuinely care for the interests of those who suffer (patients) and want to see an end to crooks who seek to take advantage of the gullible and vulnerable, must press on.
    “Nil carborundum illigitimii”!

    • I admit, I had to look it up:
      Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
      [no I won’t]

      • “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”?!?
        …mmh, I must have missed this quote in Game of Thrones…

        Joking aside, I consider misinformation one of the worst problems today, especially it´s spread via social media.
        This is one reason why I appreciate your tireless contributions here on your blog (and elsewhere) so much.
        I just wished that the size of the effect would be greater that “small to moderate”.

        • thanks
          … let’s work towards increasing the effect size!

          • Well, get your peers to stop spreading wrong info and get your experts to call them out when it happens.

            That’s basically what this paper discovered.

          • … and that the activities show some success

          • Right

            “Assessment of the 24 studies included in the meta-analysis
            indicated high risk of bias among 11 (45.8%) and unclear
            risk among 13 (54.2%) studies. In particular, 11 (45.8%)
            studies did not assess baseline measures prior to the inter-
            vention, making it impossible to gauge whether the groups
            were similar at baseline. Further, 4 (16.7%) studies suffered from attrition that exceeded 20% and 1 (4.2%) study was statistically underpowered. Additionally, 4 (16.7%) studies included several interventions in each condition thus rais-
            ing concerns over possible confounds.”

  • “Our peers”?

    “Specifically, it is more challenging to correct misinformation when it is delivered by our peers (d = 0.24, 95% CI [0.11, 0.36], p = .0005, k = 8) as opposed to news agencies (d = 0.48, 95% CI [0.15, 0.81], p = .001, k = 10).”

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