In The Politics of Autism, I write:
If the science were not confusing enough, its coverage in the mass media has added another layer of murk. News reports hype tentative findings and weak correlations as “breakthroughs” in the quest for autism answers. When the research yields mixed results, the media headlines can be comically inconsistent. Consider how various publications covered a 2013 study on the impact of in vitro fertilization:
[i] John J. Pitney, Jr., “IVF, Autism, and Headlines,” Autism Policy and Politics, July 2, 2013. Online: http://www.autismpolicyblog.com/2013/07/ivf-autism-and-headlines.html; “Autism and IVF: More Contradictory Headlines,” Autism Policy and Politics, July 3, 2013. Online: http://www.autismpolicyblog.com/2013/07/autism-and-ivf-more-contradictory.html
- RARE IN VITRO TECHNIQUE RAISES AUTISM RISK, STUDY SAYS
- IVF PROCEDURES DO NOT BOOST AUTISM RISK
- SOME FORMS OF IVF LINKED TO AUTISM, MENTAL DISABILITY
- IVF, AUTISM NOT LINKED, BUT STUDY FINDS RISK OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY[i]
News organizations are at risk of "creating false connections and misinformation" when they write headlines that suggest a link between vaccinations and deaths or other health problems where one does not necessarily exist, according to a new study published by the non-partisan non-profit organization Advance Democracy.
The findings, which were provided to CNN Business, show that headlines that, while sometimes factually accurate, are posted with "little to no context" are spread online and "weaponized" by anti-vaccination groups on Facebook where they amass thousands of interactions. Three articles from local news sites gained more than 800,000 interactions on Facebook, the study found.
One of these local news headlines, for example, read, "Health care worker dies after second dose of COVID vaccine, investigations underway."
"[Anti-vaccination activists] are using these headlines to confirm the false information they believe about the dangers of vaccines, which is just scientifically wrong," Daniel J. Jones, the president of Advance Democracy, told CNN Business.