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Strategies to combat medical misinformation on social media
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  1. Samuel P Trethewey
  1. Oak Tree Surgery, Liskeard, Cornwall, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Samuel P Trethewey, Oak Tree Surgery, Liskeard, Cornwall, UK; s-trethewey{at}doctors.org.uk

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The proliferation of medical misinformation on social media is a growing, global public health concern.1 The medical community is responding to this pervasive threat; earlier this year, the Chief Executive of the American Medical Association wrote to the leading technology companies calling for more action to ‘ensure that users have access to scientifically valid information on vaccinations’.2 Similarly, the editors of leading cardiology journals recently collaborated to ‘sound the alarm’ on this issue and call for a coordinated effort from purveyors of web-based media to help to address medical misinformation.3 It is likely that a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, using a wide range of interventions, will be required to counter the spread of medical misinformation on social media.4 This editorial discusses potential strategies to help to address this important public health issue.

​Careful dissemination

Careful dissemination of medical research is paramount in the fight against medical misinformation. Evidence suggests that research findings are often exaggerated or misrepresented in press releases and news media,5 and one of the main factors associated with ‘spin’ in press releases is ‘spin’ in article abstract conclusions.6 It is crucial that research findings are presented in an accurate, unbiased and balanced way in the biomedical literature, if we are to expect news media journalists and the general public to interpret these findings appropriately. A recent randomised trial demonstrated that small changes in press release headlines, in addition to explicit caveats/causality statements in the main text of press releases, can improve the accuracy of subsequent news headlines and stories.7 A report published in 2017 by the Academy of Medical Sciences contains detailed recommendations for researchers, press offices and journalists to guide accurate communication of scientific information to the public.8 Moreover, using evidence-based frameworks, such as the Disseminating Research Information through Facebook and …

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