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'Account Suspended': LiverDoc's Case & New Challenge in Debunking Health Misinfo

How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

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The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, 10 October, directed X (formerly Twitter) to allow hepatologist Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, also popularly known as 'TheLiverDr', to access his account after it was suspended nearly two weeks ago on 28 September. The suspension was based on an order by a Bengaluru court after Himalaya Wellness Company alleged that he used his X account to defame their company.

While this was based on a court direction, earlier in April, the account of Revant Himatsingka, popularly known as @FoodPharmer, who took on Bournvita over their alleged misinformation in ingredients, also faced suspension of account.

Experts and content creators, who specifically focus on debunking health misinformation, are increasingly weary about their accounts being suspended, simply based on pressure from conglomerates and big pharmaceutical companies.
How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

‘X’ has Withheld Alt-Medicine Critic The Liver Doctor' AKA Dr Abby Philips'account.

(Photo: FIT)

'Account Suspended': LiverDoc's Case & New Challenge in Debunking Health Misinfo

  1. 1. Is Account Suspension Even the Answer?

    Companies charging content creators with defamation is not new, according to Prateek Waghre, Policy Director, Internet Freedom Foundation. This trend is here to stay, he tells WebQoof.

    "The corporate companies with large resources at their disposals are going to go after individuals, even those who are accurate in their claims like Dr Abby, in order to save their reputation."
    Prateek Waghre, Policy Director, Internet Freedom Foundation

    Soutik Banerjee, a Delhi-based advocate, tells WebQoof that the use of defamation suits has been increasingly taking the shape of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits. These lawsuits are intended to censor and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense.

    He explains that courts sometimes protect the perceived reputation of companies at the cost of free speech because the other party, the critics, do not get to even enter their defense in the trial after companies file a lawsuit against them.

    In an ideal scenario, both parties get to keep their defense, upon which the court draws a conclusion. However, power in the hands of big companies makes this two-way path a single lane.

    Speaking and seeking out the truth is rare and comes at a personal cost, further actions shutting down creators' speech create a bigger hurdle, the experts add.

    "In the present case, the suspension of the account not only stops discourse on the concerned subject, but it also stops any and all communication from one party on social media. It is grossly disproportionate and directly impinges in an unreasonable manner on the right to free speech," Banerjee adds.
    Expand
  2. 2. Importance of Debunking Health Misinformation

    According to research titled 'The Disaster of Misinformation: A Review of Research in Social Media, published in 2022, the algorithms of these platforms also play a big role in spreading misinformation.

    "The amount of misinformation outnumbers the debunking or valid information by million to one. I put the blame on incentives that the social media algorithm has created for content creators," says author and science communicator Krish Ashok.

    Ashok is known by his Instagram account, '@_masalalab', and believes that social media platforms have created an environment where the quickest way to grow is to spread misinformation.

    How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

    Health misinformation in India is difficult to control.

    (Source:WHO/Screenshot)

    Another study from 2021 titled 'The Echo Chamber Effect on Social Media' states that the spread of this misinformation can lead to echo chambers on social media where a user’s opinion continues to be reinforced by the content with which they engage.

    Further adding to his point, YouTuber and science communicator Pranav Radhakrishnan (known as ScienceIsDope) says, "When such fear mongering creators see the immense growth that they are having because of their black and white approach towards content, they make more of it."

    The 'fear mongering' pages choose an approach based more on fear than on science.

    Expand
  3. 3. Suspension of X Account: A Threat to Freedom of Speech

    Suspension of Dr Philips' X account has drawn a lot of attention because his case is tricky. A 'thoroughly backed scientific study' against a well-known company landed him in trouble.

    FIT spoke to Dr Abby who stands by his claims. "I have cited data from published papers which shows that Himalaya products are dangerous for people to consume, especially patients with liver disease."

    Although Ashok and Radhakrishnan did not feel that this move impacted their personal way of creating content, they do feel that it is important for them to speak up against scams and use their freedom of speech.

    Radhakrishnan mentions that it is necessary for us to speak against corporate companies, especially the ones that rely on the gullibility of their customers and scam them.

    Ashok points out how Dr Philips' style of science communication worked perfectly on X because he is direct and unafraid to call anything out.

    Calling this suspension a fundamental speech issue, he says"

    "We can recognize that the company has the right to sue someone for defamation. The problem is that if someone's freedom of speech has been blocked for months on end, then it looks like they are taking advantage of the system. We should expect our members of parliament to change this law; you cannot shut anyone down if you don't like what they say, even if you are doing it indirectly and perfectly legally."
    How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

    Dr Philips' style of science communication works perfectly on X.

    (Source: The Quint)

    Expand
  4. 4. How Do Creators Fight Against Such Odds?

    Creators have a deep influence on their viewers, and acknowledging their power while not misusing it is the need of the hour, they tell WebQoof.

    Radhakrishnan states that being confident in your arguments and having scientific backing from research and studies is the way to go.

    "My approach is to tell people why things are wrong instead of just telling them they are wrong."

    "I focus on telling people how to think in a more skeptical way and how to see through pseudoscience, so I don't react to an individual, a product, or a company; I focus on ideas," says Ashok. This is another way of putting forward your researched facts for your viewers while nudging them in the right direction without attacking any particular entity.

    Himatsingka, who has also faced suspension of his X account. He states that having multiple accounts on different social media platforms is one way to deal with account suspensions.

    "So, even if one account gets suspended, you have another one to fall back on. But you should also be mindful of what you post and add some disclaimers, if needed," he adds.

    In his case, his X account had been hacked, and the hacker started posting 'random tweets' due to which X banned his account permanently, even though the creator himself was not responsible for the tweets that landed him in trouble.

    He says, "To date, I have not been able to recover my account, and I lost my entire work on X."

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Is Account Suspension Even the Answer?

Companies charging content creators with defamation is not new, according to Prateek Waghre, Policy Director, Internet Freedom Foundation. This trend is here to stay, he tells WebQoof.

"The corporate companies with large resources at their disposals are going to go after individuals, even those who are accurate in their claims like Dr Abby, in order to save their reputation."
Prateek Waghre, Policy Director, Internet Freedom Foundation

Soutik Banerjee, a Delhi-based advocate, tells WebQoof that the use of defamation suits has been increasingly taking the shape of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits. These lawsuits are intended to censor and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense.

He explains that courts sometimes protect the perceived reputation of companies at the cost of free speech because the other party, the critics, do not get to even enter their defense in the trial after companies file a lawsuit against them.

In an ideal scenario, both parties get to keep their defense, upon which the court draws a conclusion. However, power in the hands of big companies makes this two-way path a single lane.

Speaking and seeking out the truth is rare and comes at a personal cost, further actions shutting down creators' speech create a bigger hurdle, the experts add.

"In the present case, the suspension of the account not only stops discourse on the concerned subject, but it also stops any and all communication from one party on social media. It is grossly disproportionate and directly impinges in an unreasonable manner on the right to free speech," Banerjee adds.
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Importance of Debunking Health Misinformation

According to research titled 'The Disaster of Misinformation: A Review of Research in Social Media, published in 2022, the algorithms of these platforms also play a big role in spreading misinformation.

"The amount of misinformation outnumbers the debunking or valid information by million to one. I put the blame on incentives that the social media algorithm has created for content creators," says author and science communicator Krish Ashok.

Ashok is known by his Instagram account, '@_masalalab', and believes that social media platforms have created an environment where the quickest way to grow is to spread misinformation.

How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

Health misinformation in India is difficult to control.

(Source:WHO/Screenshot)

Another study from 2021 titled 'The Echo Chamber Effect on Social Media' states that the spread of this misinformation can lead to echo chambers on social media where a user’s opinion continues to be reinforced by the content with which they engage.

Further adding to his point, YouTuber and science communicator Pranav Radhakrishnan (known as ScienceIsDope) says, "When such fear mongering creators see the immense growth that they are having because of their black and white approach towards content, they make more of it."

The 'fear mongering' pages choose an approach based more on fear than on science.

0

Suspension of X Account: A Threat to Freedom of Speech

Suspension of Dr Philips' X account has drawn a lot of attention because his case is tricky. A 'thoroughly backed scientific study' against a well-known company landed him in trouble.

FIT spoke to Dr Abby who stands by his claims. "I have cited data from published papers which shows that Himalaya products are dangerous for people to consume, especially patients with liver disease."

Although Ashok and Radhakrishnan did not feel that this move impacted their personal way of creating content, they do feel that it is important for them to speak up against scams and use their freedom of speech.

Radhakrishnan mentions that it is necessary for us to speak against corporate companies, especially the ones that rely on the gullibility of their customers and scam them.

Ashok points out how Dr Philips' style of science communication worked perfectly on X because he is direct and unafraid to call anything out.

Calling this suspension a fundamental speech issue, he says"

"We can recognize that the company has the right to sue someone for defamation. The problem is that if someone's freedom of speech has been blocked for months on end, then it looks like they are taking advantage of the system. We should expect our members of parliament to change this law; you cannot shut anyone down if you don't like what they say, even if you are doing it indirectly and perfectly legally."
How difficult is it to combat health misinformation spreading online? Read to know more.

Dr Philips' style of science communication works perfectly on X.

(Source: The Quint)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

How Do Creators Fight Against Such Odds?

Creators have a deep influence on their viewers, and acknowledging their power while not misusing it is the need of the hour, they tell WebQoof.

Radhakrishnan states that being confident in your arguments and having scientific backing from research and studies is the way to go.

"My approach is to tell people why things are wrong instead of just telling them they are wrong."

"I focus on telling people how to think in a more skeptical way and how to see through pseudoscience, so I don't react to an individual, a product, or a company; I focus on ideas," says Ashok. This is another way of putting forward your researched facts for your viewers while nudging them in the right direction without attacking any particular entity.

Himatsingka, who has also faced suspension of his X account. He states that having multiple accounts on different social media platforms is one way to deal with account suspensions.

"So, even if one account gets suspended, you have another one to fall back on. But you should also be mindful of what you post and add some disclaimers, if needed," he adds.

In his case, his X account had been hacked, and the hacker started posting 'random tweets' due to which X banned his account permanently, even though the creator himself was not responsible for the tweets that landed him in trouble.

He says, "To date, I have not been able to recover my account, and I lost my entire work on X."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit and fit-webqoof

Topics:  Webqoof   FIT   misinformation 

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