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A series of pseudoscientific studies encourages the spread of misinformation on social media

A series of pseudoscientific studies encourages the spread of misinformation on social media


Studies with flawed methodology and failed conclusions dealing with Covid-19 are heating up debates on social media, lending scientific credence to anti-vaccine skepticism as the information crisis continues to wreak havoc on public health.

With the studies dealing with the coronavirus now being widely discussed and shared outside the medical circle, their decline is not enough to quell the feelings they are generating online.

Once the paper is published, the damage is irreparable. Explains Emerson Brooking, a resident scholar at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory, a Washington-based disinformation identification and analysis lab.

According to him, these studies are problematic “Light the fuel” In discussions on social networks with the conspiracy and skeptics of the epidemic. these studies “Often generate a lot of momentum online”. their discoveries “Then fake articles about it.” on other platforms.

This misinformation is particularly dangerous at a time when the rate of Covid vaccination is slowing, particularly in the United States, and as the country’s health authorities continue to assert that recent deaths linked to the coronavirus are mostly found in non-populations. .

“That no one on the committee was noticed is deeply concerning.”

At the end of June 2021, the Medical Journal of Vaccines published a study on the risks and benefits of vaccination against COVID-19. The study, which was validated by the Scientific Reading Committee, provided troubling conclusions: The vaccine could cause two deaths for every three people it protects from the virus.

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Two days after the study was published, a tweet from Covid vaccine scientist and critic Robert Malone, echoing the study’s conclusions, collected thousands of tweets. For her part, conservative American commentator Liz Wheeler presented the study and encouraged reading it “Scientific Recommendations” In a video that has reached more than 250,000 views on Facebook.

But on July 2, the medical journal withdrew the study; Because : “Several errors which fundamentally affect the interpretation of its conclusions.”

At least four members of the journal’s scientific committee resigned after the study was validated, including Katie Ewer, associate professor at the Jenner Institute at Oxford University in England.

“It should have been recognized that this paper would have had a huge impact”, This was recognized by the famous immunologist. “That no one on the committee has noticed any problems is very concerning, especially for a magazine that specializes in vaccines.”, she added.

Although Robert Malone’s tweet has been deleted, Liz Wheeler’s video is still available on Facebook.

These examples of neglect of the scientific publishing process are also found in popular journals.

Poor methodological quality studies ‘influence people’s choices’

In June 2020, he was very popular scalpelAnd New England Journal of Medicine And Annals of internal medicine They announced, respectively, the withdrawal of the medical studies published on their site: two of them related to treating Covid-19 with chloroquine, and the third dealt with the ineffectiveness of wearing a muzzle in the face of the spread of the virus.

Scientific research papers won “unprecedented interest” Maimona Majumder, an epidemiologist and statistician at Harvard Medical School notes. According to her, health experts need to better explain their work to an uninformed public.

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“All the studies that have been produced and shared widely during a pandemic have not always been so scientifically robust,” Says. “It’s particularly annoying,” Because these studies themselves are of poor methodological quality Influencing people’s choices especially “Those related to vaccination”.