The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed news that popular social media platforms are acting to limit the impact of misleading information concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported this morning Twitter plans to warn users when a tweet contains disputed or misleading content and Facebook is organising for “fact checkers” to review false information on its platform.
Dr Nespolon said that these measures were needed now more than ever.
“Throughout this pandemic I have been warning Australians to be wary of false or misleading medical ‘advice’ and updates on social media concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and other health issues.
“It’s not uncommon for people to espouse alternative therapies on social media which are not supported by science or the medical community. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously given them an opportunity to dial up their content and alarm an even greater number of already anxious Australians.
“We have had celebrity chef and prominent-anti-vaxxer Pete Evans marketing a ‘BioCharger’ for $15,000 that apparently replicates light, frequencies, harmonics, pulsed electromagnetic fields and voltage to fight off COVID-19.
“Model and businesswoman Miranda Kerr has promoted a ‘Virus Protection’ guide from ‘medical medium’ Anthony William to her 12 million followers on Instagram.
“Not to be outdone former ‘Home and Away’ star Isabel Lucas and retired surfer Taj Burrow have claimed that they simply don’t trust vaccinations.
“It seems like every day we have had another outlandish conspiracy theory or ‘cure’ for COVID-19.”
The RACGP President said that he hoped social media platforms would remain active in targeting content that could jeopardise public health.
“The new measures could not come soon enough and I welcome these companies introducing these initiatives.
“Now more than ever, expert medical advice matters most. It is a sad but unfortunate reality that some people have taken advantage of this pandemic to promote countless pseudo-scientific cures and treatments and myths which at best do nothing and at worse are hazardous to people’s health.
“The concern I have is that they may lull people into a false sense of security which means that they don’t abide by responsibilities such as social distancing.
“Healthcare workers across Australia are working around the clock risking their own health to care for patients and do all they can to save lives at risk from COVID-19.
“They don’t want unnecessary attention drawn to themselves, this is their job and they are proud to do it every day. But it makes their vital work a lot harder than it needs to be when celebrities with high profiles and many social media followers encourage people to ignore expert medical advice.”
The RACGP President said that people needed to be mindful of where they are accessing information concerning COVID-19 and all other health issues.
“I understand people are anxious but social media users need to critically examine what they see online and consider the source of the information and whether it is credible and reasonable.
“So please apply a ‘sniff test’ to posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like and ask yourself – is this really reliable?
“My recommendation is just log off social media when you see someone like Pete Evans spruiking a device featuring ‘a thousand different recipes’ including some ‘in there for the Wuhan coronavirus’.
“The best sources of information on COVID-19 include the RACGP website and the official health.gov.au website, not Miranda Kerr’s Instagram account.”
This year the RACGP has spoken out against:
Celebrity chef Pete Evans and his “hybrid subtle energy revitalisation platform” costing $15,000
model and business Miranda Kerr and her “medical medium” who believes celery juice contains an “undiscovered subgroup of sodium” that someone “fight offs viruses” like COVID-19
retired surfer Taj Burrow’s anti-vaxxer comments
former Home and Away actor Isabel Lucas saying she doesn’t trust the “path” of vaccination
Taylor Winterstein claiming that there is a “strong core of families” in the NRL who (like her) are anti-vaxxers and that COVID-19 is a “planned scam”.