In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.
According to analysis by my employer, NewsGuard, NaturalNews.com articles have declared the measles outbreak a “false flag” that originated with “infected migrants.” Similarly, Adams’ network has reported that an outbreak in New Hampshire was caused by the vaccine itself (a false claim based on state officials having mistakensomeone’s reaction to the vaccine as a confirmed measles case). And the network has been relying on an old “Brady Bunch” episode as evidence that a measles infection is “typically very mild, much like getting chickenpox,” overlooking the serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis that typically accompany the disease.
NewsGuard was co-founded last year by journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill (known in part for his health care reporting) and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz. In rating news and information sites in the U.S., Italy, U.K., France, and Germany, it has discovered a diverse spectrum of health sites. These range from green-rated peer-reviewed medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine to hundreds of red-rated conspiracy-minded sites such as NaturalNews.com and Collective-Evolution.com, where vaccine-autism stories can be found next to articles claiming the 9/11 terrorist attacks were staged.
Americans who search symptoms or diseases online may come across well-sourced health information on sites such as WebMD or Healthline. But also high up in search results and social shares are sites with names such as GreenMedInfo and Healthy Holistic Living, which present themselves as authoritative reference guides on health topics while relying on false claims and misrepresented sources to promote alternative medical treatments.
While both of those sites promote a disproven link between vaccines and autism, their deceptive practices go beyond questioning vaccine safety.