Commentary

Study: 11% Of News Websites Spread False Health Information

Americans need to be careful about the health information they find online as many health-focused sites peddle false and misleading claims to big audiences.

This year’s significant jump in measles cases may be partly attributed to websites that publish unfounded claimsabout vaccination.

An estimated 11% of about 3,000 news and information websites publish misinformation about health, according to a study by NewsGuard.

The tech startup cofounded last year by journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz aims to fight "fake news" by rating the reliability of publishers.

“Much of the focus on misinformation has been on political websites, but misinformation by health websites is also an enormous problem,” Brill stated.

Among the websites that NewsGuard considers unreliable, more than one-third publish health information.

The unreliable sites generated more than 49 million engagements -- including shares, likes and comments -- on social media during a three-month period analyzed by NewsGuard.

That activity exceeded engagement for major news websites, such as NPR, Business Insider and Forbes, according to a blog post by John Gregory, an analyst at NewsGuard.

Much of the misinformation consists of unsubstantiated claims, such as how vaccines cause autism or marijuana cures cancer, he said.

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