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Bogus Medical Posts Flood Filipino Social Media: Misinformation and False Advertising Targeting Filipinos

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented rise in the usage of social media platforms among Filipinos, and unfortunately, it has also given rise to a barrage of bogus medical posts. With over 76 million internet users in the country, Facebook has become the go-to platform for many Filipinos seeking remedies online, as they are cheaper and easier to access than visiting a doctor. However, this has also led to an explosion of misinformation about untested cosmetic products and quick-fix treatments for chronic illnesses.

In many cases, these bogus medical products are promoted in videos that have been doctored to make it look like real medical professionals are endorsing them. Others appear in falsified news reports, while some are touted by popular vloggers who have a large following. Despite efforts by fact checkers and warnings from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, these posts can circulate for weeks or even months without detection, putting many people's health at risk.

Filipino doctors have tried to counter this rise in medical misinformation by posting videos providing free information about common health conditions, but promoters of spurious treatments have used clips from those videos and inserted them into their own posts for credibility. This has made it difficult for doctors to get their message across, and many patients are considering purchasing unapproved treatments, often leading to dire consequences.

The consequences of using unapproved treatments can be dire, and it saddens doctors to see people readily believe advertisements that claim to heal all health problems as speedily as possible and pay exorbitant prices for these treatments. This rise in medical misinformation is a global problem, and the pandemic may have made it worse. Filipinos are particularly vulnerable to false or misleading health claims due to a shortage of doctors in the country and their heavy internet usage.

It is essential for social media platforms like Facebook to do more to prevent the spread of medical misinformation. While Facebook has a multi-stage review system to check ads before they are published, keyword searches on Meta's ad library found hundreds of advertisements for products debunked by fact checkers still on the site. The ad policy of Meta prohibits any promises or suggestions of unrealistic outcomes for health, weight loss, or economic opportunity, but more needs to be done to ensure that these policies are being followed.

In conclusion, the rise of medical misinformation among Filipino social media users is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It is essential for people to get their information from reliable sources and to consult with doctors before trying any unapproved treatments. Social media platforms must also do more to prevent the spread of medical misinformation and to ensure that their ad policies are being followed. Only then can we hope to combat this rising tide of medical misinformation and protect the health of people in the Philippines.

(via South China Morning Post)

Cover image via Doc Adam YouTube Channel

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