Fake News: Not a New Problem
Fake news is not new. Those of us who talk to patients and communities about fluoride and fluoridation are very familiar with the phenomenon.
In recent years, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing web articles like this one about Dallas officials ending community water fluoridation. On the contrary, the Dallas City Council voted to continue this proven health practice. (In fact, only two of the council’s 14 members voted against fluoridation.)
Another glaring example: the leading anti-fluoride group in the U.S. claims that only six nations around the world have water fluoridation programs. This is false. Fluoridation programs exist in more than 20 nations — from Brazil to Vietnam, Canada to Spain.
We must not allow critics of fluoridation to distort the research or ignore the facts. Whether we are health professionals or not, we have a responsibility to clarify or correct information that misrepresents the evidence. How? Here are two suggestions.
First, use social media to share articles that call attention to misinformation. The widely visited Snopes website recently examined attempts to link fluoride and IQ scores, explaining why those assertions lack credibility. Sharing that article on your Facebook page is a simple way to raise awareness. (While you’re there, take a minute to “like” and “follow” our Facebook page.) PolitiFact has published multiple reviews to fact-check claims made about fluoride, and the website FiveThirtyEight has examined the key claims made by opponents of fluoridation. These are also excellent articles to share.
Second, help improve the public’s ability to identify fake news by sharing this National Public Radio article with six tips on evaluating whether an article is likely to be truthful and accurate. For example, one tip advises readers to pay attention to the domain name and read the “About” page to help determine whether it’s a credible site.
In the words of a Swiss philosopher, “Truth is violated by falsehood, but is outraged by silence.” Let’s speak out to ensure that the health decisions our families and communities make in 2017 are guided by facts, not fiction.