Paper: Research Abstract
Criteria for Evaluating Deception, Disinformation, and Controversy in the Evolving Digital Consumer Health Information Universe
Sunday, May 5
5:20 PM - 5:35 PM
Room: Columbus CD (East Tower, Ballroom/Gold Level)
Senior Social Science Analyst
US National Library of Medicine
Arizona State University
Objectives : With the emergence of new Web platforms and social media, critically evaluating online health information has taken on a new urgency. Unfortunately, existing information quality criteria address do not address content, target information creators rather than users, or do not address novel technologies. This study develops a methodology for analyzing health-related webpages and applies it to a set of webpages.
Methods : This qualitative study analyzes twenty-five type 2 diabetes pages derived from the results of a Google search for “diabetes, reversal, natural.” The coding scheme, developed via a combination of theory-driven and data-driven approaches, includes five categories from existing established guidelines (resource type, information authority, validity of background information sources, objectivity, currency) and seven novel categories (treatment/reversal method, promises and certainty, criticisms of establishment, emotional appeal, vocabulary, rhetoric and presentation, use of science in argumentation). The coding involves both categorical judgement and in-depth narrative characterization. Upon establishing satisfactory level of agreement on the narrative coding, the team coded the complete dataset of twenty-five pages.
Results : Treatments proposed by the pages include a mixture of conventional evidence-based treatments (e.g., healthy balanced diet) and unconventional treatments (e.g., dietary supplements). Most pages either promise or strongly imply high likelihood of complete recovery. Pages vary greatly with respect to the authors’ stated background and credentials and the information sources they reference. The majority includes criticisms of the traditional healthcare establishment. Many sell commercial products. A significant number makes positive mentions of the word “cure” and includes references to nature as a positive healing force. Most pages present biological explanations of their proposed treatments of varying levels of complexity.
Conclusions : Both traditional and data-driven categories of codes used in this work yield insights about the resources and highlight challenges faced by their users. This exploratory study underscores the challenges of consumer health information seeking and the importance of assisting the public with seeking, evaluating, and analyzing consumer health information in the changing digital ecosystem.