What Will Wikitribune Mean for the Fight Against Misinformation?


Basic idea of Wikitribune (CC BY 2.0)

There is a new contender on the block for helping to fight the impact of fake news. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has decides to create a new initiative called Wikitribune. The goal is to provide a highly credible source of news that is not driven by advertisements or clickbait and thus avoid low quality and misleading content. The core idea is to combine professional journalists with a community of volunteers to ensure that the information is authored, updated and fact-checked and verified in such a way as to provide credible information.

Wikitribune: New Initiative to Fight Fake News

Homeopathic Manufacturer Waits Three Months Before Recall

Homeopathic teething products with Belladonna recalled

“The products in question are teething tablets that are manufactured by the Standard Homeopathic Company. These are supposed to contain no detectable levels of belladonna (since it is all diluted away), but since homeopathy is a pseudoscience, one cannot really assume that they will have good manufacturing practices.

Laboratory analyses performed by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that Hyland’s homeopathic teething tablets contained too large and inconsistent amounts of belladonna (a plant that contains dangerous secondary metabolites such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine).”

Homeopathic Company Finally Recalls Teething Products Containing Belladonna

Exposing Another “Spell Casting” Scam

Spell casting debunked

“Spammers send out millions of emails, comments and messages every day in an effort to scam vulnerable people with real medical or relationship problems for large sums of money. Most people would probably never pay thousands of dollars to some stranger on the Internet for an unproven and untested “treatment”, so it is hard for many people to understand why spammers continue their efforts or why some people fall for it (especially when the language and spelling in these messages are often hilariously bad).

The reality is that it is enough if just 1 in 10 000 people fall for the scam for the spammers to make a profit. Making accounts and sending messages are almost always free, or requires a small investment for running different kinds of bots that do it for them. They target people at their most vulnerable and exploit sorrow and desperation. Most of their victims would probably never fall for it if they were not in this exceedingly vulnerable state.”

Spell Casting Will Not Get Your Husband Back

16 Anti-Vax “Questions” Debunked by Scientific Facts

16 anti-vax claims debunked

“Credible scientific and medical information about vaccines can be gotten from reading the websites of medical organizations and government public health websites, science and medicine textbooks by mainstream publishers and reading scientific review papers in highly credible scientific journals. The material found therein has very often been fact-checked and subjected to peer-review by other experts. Although certainly not infallible, together they represent the best information currently available.

Anti-vaccine activists, on the other hand, primarily rely on misleading information found on conspiracy blogs, YouTube videos and Facebook groups. These are not credible sources. One such blog post that is circulating in anti-vaccine communities is called The Pro-Vax Argument Lost Me When (with the subtitle “They Couldn’t Answer These Questions”) and feature 16 anti-vaccine claims disguised as superficially innocent questions for which the writer wrongly believes science has no answers.”

16 Anti-Vax “Questions” Debunked by Scientific Facts

A Scientific Skeptic Watches “Born in the Wild” (North Dakota Episode)

Born in the Wild

“This episode is about Hailee (23) and Evan Awes (25) who live in Manvel outside Grand Forks in North Dakota with their 20 month old son Isaac. Hailee has previously had a homebirth inside in a birth pool. She wanted a birth free of pain and drugs and claims to have done her research and the more research she did, the more her heart wanted a homebirth. What kind of research she did is unclear. When she gave birth to Isaac, they did the birth in their living room after just having had moved in (moving boxes were still cluttered around their home). This time, Hailee wants to do their homebirth outside instead. She acknowledges that people think that they are “crazy”, but she insists that hospitals are for sick people and giving birth is not being sick.

Because she does not make any scientific arguments or reference any scientific publications, it is likely that her “research” was not so much spending months reading the scientific literature and talking to real experts, but probably frequenting homebirth blogs and Facebook groups. Giving birth outside, she says, makes you “connected to nature” and is “the way women used to do it”. She is convinced that it will be a beautiful experience no matter how snowy or windy it becomes.”

A Scientific Skeptic Watches “Born in the Wild” (North Dakota Episode)

Quack Herbal Treatment For Children Found Contaminated by Prescription Medication

PureCare Herbal Cream

PureCare Herbal Cream with the current label (Health Canada).

“This time, however, it was different. PureCare Herbal Cream Ltd. closed down their webshop and issued a “public announcement and correction notice” on their Facebook page. Their notice said that they have “ceased all sales and have instituted a recall action plan” and that “already contacted the manufacturer of the product regarding this Health Canada concern and is following up with the manufacturer regarding this new information”.

Or was it really different? Their notice further claims that they were “always expressly informed by the manufacturer that the product was all natural and free from any drugs or parabens and this information was passed on to its retail customers and end users.” and that they do “not believe that past use of this product would have caused any damage or injury to any of its users”. In other words, they blame it all on an unnamed manufacturer outside of Canada and dismisses concerns that their products could have caused harm to people who used it.”

PureCare Herbal Cream Found Contaminated by Prescription Steroids

Five Reasons Why “Placebo Medicine” is Bullshit

“When it is ultimately shown that some alternative medicine practice is virtually indistinguishable from placebo, they switch the narrative once again. This time, they insist that even if their fake products and services are indistinguishable from placebo, the placebo effect is supposedly some mysterious new age woo that the mind somehow determines reality and that we therefore must “harness the power of placebo”. Here is why all of this is deeply misleading.

In reality, placebo effects are often weak, transient and largely ineffective for objective measures. Giving patients with real medical conditions placebos as a treatment would also require deception. Some quacks insist that studies show that placebos work even if you tell people they are only getting inert sugar pills, but when examined closely, those studies actually involve deception.”

Five Reasons Why “Placebo Medicine” is Bullshit

Fact: Condoms protect against HIV transmission


“Laboratory studies have shown that latex and condoms works as an effective barrier against particles that have the same size as sexually transmitted pathogens (Carey et. al, 1992). Studies on couples where just one of them has HIV have shown that correct and consistent use of condoms are effective for preventing HIV transmission (Holmes et. al, 2004; Weller et. al, 2002; Smith et. al, 2015).

There have been many epidemiological studies on different populations in different countries (including Thailand, Ivory Coast, Bolivia, India, and Zimbabwe) that show that condoms are effecting for reducing the spread of HIV (Hanenberg et. al, 1994; Ghys et. al, 2002; Levine et. al, 1998; Fontanet et. al, 1998; Boily et. al, 2013; Rachakulla et. al, 2013; UNAIDS, 2000; Halperin et. al, 2011).”

Fact: Condoms protect against HIV transmission>

Mailbag: Ban All Agricultural Pesticides?


“There is a culture of fear and hate around agricultural pesticides. This is to some degree understandable, because pesticides have some risks. Large, chronic exposure can cause severe harm, thousands of people die from acute exposure to high doses and pesticides can kill non-target organisms and pollute groundwater.

However, there are also beneficial aspects with pesticides. If we let pests run amok, we would lose 50%-80% of the crop harvest and pesticides play a partial role in preventing such devastating crop loss. They can also reduce labor required to manage weeds and contribute to suppressing insect vectors for diseases (at least for a certain time until resistance develops). Extreme anti-pesticide activists also actively oppose replacing more dangerous pesticides with safer pesticides and using genetic modification to reduce pesticide use.”

Mailbag: Ban All Agricultural Pesticides?

Fake “Stem Cell” Injections Blind Three Women

Stem cell quackery

“Because stem cells can differentiate into different cell types, the general idea is that they might be used to replace things that do not work in the human body, from cell populations to tissues and even organs. The most common legitimate stem cell therapy in medicine involves using bone marrow stem cells (and chemotherapy) to treat leukemia and lymphoma. A small number of other legitimate therapeutic stem cell therapies have been shown to be effective in medical research and approved by regulators.

Yet, there are also fake stem cell treatments that are pushed by quacks that scam people for money and even causes serious harm.”

Fake “Stem Cell” Injections Blind Three Women