It’s content that preys on some of the world’s most vulnerable people — genuine cancer battlers.
Across social media, video posts and private discussion threads claim the disease can be destroyed by ignoring medical advice and adopting a diet of compressed juices and raw foods instead.
Other posts say injecting baking soda can do the trick or to consume bleach in order to get rid of autism.
These so-called “alternative treatments” are all over YouTube and Facebook. Many boast hundreds of thousands of viewers and subscribers, and in some cases they can reel in millions of dollars a year.
Now, as part of a broader effort to combat fake news and potentially damaging content, social media platforms are being forced to fight back.
LIFESTYLE VLOGGERS PUSHING BOGUS CANCER CLAIMS
Health-related misinformation has for years been a major issue on social media sites.
Go on YouTube and you’ll find a plethora of videos from people claiming they cured cancer through “alternative” measures.
Facebook is filled with private groups that claim swallowing bleach can “cure” children of autism, and baking soda injections are an “alternative treatment” for cancer.
Some pages sell treatments, which according to a recent Wall Street Journal investigation has driven some cancer patients into debt and encouraged them away from medical treatment.
Supplement salesman Robert O. Young sold baking-soda injections and juicing regimens through Facebook.
According to the Journal, he was convicted in a San Diego County Court in 2016 for practising medicine without a licence.
Gina Darvas, the district attorney who prosecuted Mr Young, said he used social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook to earn as much as $US5 million a year prior to his conviction.
Now free from jail, he continues to push posts selling his cancer and dietary theories plus services and products.
But he’s not alone. In the digital age, bogus health claims and fake news are a longstanding problem.
In a video posted in 2014, lifestyle vlogger Blythe Metz claimed natural cancer treatments work better than chemotherapy, alleging the cure for cancer is being suppressed by the government.
“There are alternatives that have been sacked because they are a threat to this multi-trillion dollar business,” she says in a video that has over 600,000 views.
“There are so many herbal remedies out there. Mistletoe. Turmeric. Baking soda. The Rife Machine … if you have a diagnosis, know that there are alternatives for you.”
Many other popular videos are based on real-life cancer stories.
For years, aunt-niece duo Mari Lopez and Liz Johnson ran a video series detailing Ms Lopez’s journey appearing to overcome cancer.
In one video, they prepare a green juice that Ms Lopez says was instrumental in curing her breast cancer.
“This juice gets into your bloodstream in 15 minutes. I had no energy, I was wearing diapers, I was dying. The moment this hit my blood cells, my blood cells were happy,” she says. “I’m a cancer-killer, girl.
“The lemon-ginger blast helped me remove inflammation from my body.”
The YouTube star claimed a vegan lifestyle had cured her illness. But less than two years later, she was dead. The cancer had spread to her blood, liver and lungs.
She told hundreds of thousands of viewers she skipped cancer treatment and ignored her doctors’ recommendations in favour of a vegan lifestyle.
But over a year on, Ms Johnson has kept the videos online and regularly updates them. “I will not take down her videos as they continue to help people,” she wrote in the description.
In another video, YouTube subscriber Chris Wark — who has over 100,000 followers — says he naturally overcame Stage 3 colon cancer and repeatedly refers to chemotherapy as “poisonous”.
YouTube has vowed to “deprioritise” these videos. However, when you search “Cure for cancer” on YouTube, his video “3 Reasons Why I Refused Chemo for Cancer (And Cured Cancer Naturally)” appears in the top 10 results.
While he admits he’s not a doctor, does not practice medicine and has no medical qualifications, Mr Wark charges $US175 for a two-hour phone consultation in which he imparts his “healing wisdom” to others.
“What I do have is nearly 10 years of experiential expertise. As you can tell by the vast amount of info on this site, I am an avid researcher on nutrition and natural therapies. I am deeply immersed in the alternative health community, and I know many people who have healed themselves,” he says.
Among these “alternative” methods, he promotes a “cancer fighting salad” and says he beat cancer through changing his diet.
Other videos are careful not to directly attribute cures to essential oils and juices but plug these as ways the video makers have “maintained” a healthy lifestyle post-cancer treatment.
It comes after disgraced wellness blogger Belle Gibson was fined $410,000 for breaching consumer laws after falsely claiming she cured her non-existent brain cancer through diet and alternative methods.
Similar posts are all over Instagram, where everything from weight loss teas and diet lollipops to fake cancer treatment posts can garner a significant reach.
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AMAZING!!! I’ve read too many reports that state this over and over again. Essential oils have been around for THOUSANDS of years (before pharmaceutical companies!), and referred to often, even in the Bible. Do not dismiss their potential to heal. Read and research for yourself!! ❤️🌿 “Nature…Not Chemicals!” Link to article: https://remediesthatworkwonders.com/heres-what-oncologists-wont-tell-you-about-the-essential-oils/
Facebook recently announced a crackdown, stating in a blog post that “misleading health content is particularly bad for our community” and vowing to minimise the amount of misleading health content that appears in people’s news feeds.
In a media statement, YouTube said: “Misinformation is a difficult challenge and any misinformation on medical topics is especially concerning … We’ve taken a number of steps to address this, including surfacing more authoritative content across our site.
“Our systems are not perfect, but we’ve seen progress within this space.”
Originally published as Disturbing video trend making millions
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