Fact-check: Brain death is not a hoax 

Unscientific claims about brain death often deter people from organ donation. However, it’s important to know that there are strict medical criteria for organ retrieval.

First Check Diaries by Dr Manisha Arora Pandit

Like most people of my generation, I too have a fairly significant online presence. However, until recently I had no idea of the massive scaling effect of social media and its role in the spread of misinformation. Little did I know that health misinformation could have such a huge impact on our lives. COVID-19 exposed […]

Liver detox juice

Fact-check: Liver detoxes are futile

No super foods or special juices can detoxify a human liver. As the body’s natural detoxifier, the liver does not require any additional supplements to carry on with its normal function.

First Check Diaries by Dr Sameera Ranasinghe

I was introduced to the world of fact-checking after working in the public health sector for more than eight years. Although health promotion was one of my fields of expertise, I had no idea that there existed a systematic methodology to detect false health claims and evaluate evidence critically in the public domain. It was […]

Fact-check: Monkeypox home remedies don’t hold water

There are multiple YouTube videos on home remedies for Monkeypox, comprising neem leaves, turmeric, ginger, cucumber, honey, corn starch and the like. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Qian Sun

First Check Diaries by Qian Sun

It was late January, 2020. Amidst the catastrophic COVID-19 crisis in China, I landed in Delhi. Soon, I met Syed Nazakat (the founder and CEO of DataLEADS) and a conversation over coffee turned into a noteworthy collaboration that later went on to have a substantial impact on my professional life. I had come to India on […]

First Check Diaries by Abara Erim

Health misinformation, I strongly believe, must be treated like a disease because it behaves like one. My experience during the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014 fuels my passion for infodemic management. I consider it my duty to make use of every avenue to reach out to the public in order to pre-bunk and debunk […]

Fact-check: Mother’s milk no substitute for vaccines

Vaccines are the most useful and lifesaving inventions in medical history. Beware of baseless claims that try to create panic and spread unscientific views on vaccination. A viral WhatsApp forward claims that “mother’s milk, fresh air, good sleep, good organic food and adequate exercise” are the “only vaccine we need” to fight COVID-19 and monkeypox. The message […]

Dr-Ahmad-Firdaus-Mohd-Haris

First Check Diaries by Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic, we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus (COVID-19) and is just as dangerous.” – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO, at the Munich Security Conference 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines infodemic as too much information, including false or misleading information […]

Health misinformation: Each one spot one

With so much information at our fingertips todays, it’s hard to discern what’s true and what’s not. Can we trust everything we read on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms? Particularly when it comes to quick fixes and magic cures for varied health issues.

Monkeypox

Fact-check: Monkeypox is not a skin disease

A viral disease, monkeypox currently has no clinically proven cure – in allopathy or homeopathy. It is usually a self-limited ailment with symptoms lasting two to four weeks.

Dr.-Rohini-Karandikar

First Check Diaries by Dr. Rohini Karandikar

As a member of First Check, I feel like a warrior, fighting the infodemic. The pandemic showed us how people contracted,spread, or even succumbed to COVID-19 because they fell for false claims. However, COVID-19 is just one of the many catastrophes we have been battling. My fact-checking journey began in the year 2017, when I […]

asthma

Fact-check: ‘Natural’ remedies can’t cure asthma

A YouTube video claiming that home-based remedies can provide a ‘natural’ cure for Asthma, in the case of adults as well as children, has garnered over 80K views. The video basically makes four misleading claims about ways to beat Asthma, a major noncommunicable disease, and the most common chronic disease among children.

thyroid

Flaxseed: No cure for thyroid problems

While flaxseed is a rich source of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, more research is needed regarding the possible risks and benefits of consuming the plant-based food. 

cancer

No, marijuana cannot cure cancer

Studies have explored the possible benefits of medical marijuana on cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. 

skin cancer

Fact-check: Sunscreens don’t cause cancer

People use sunscreens to protect themselves from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays – the leading cause of skin cancers. An Instagram post, for instance, claims that sunscreens cause skin cancer as they block Vitamin D from the sun.

MSG

Fact-check: MSG is safe for human consumption

Despite several claims of adverse health effects of MSG, studies find that the widely used food additive does not pose any serious hazards to the body. 

cancer 

Fact-check: ‘Green juice’ cannot cure cancer 

Juicing removes fiber from fruits and veggies; consuming them in a solid form is the healthier option. Fiber is known to be effective in preventing certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer.

Dr.-Nicola-Simone

First Check Diaries by Dr. Nicola Simone

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig WittgensteinBefore joining First Check, I was an independent fact-checker with a personal page on Facebook. When I saw my close circle of friends and relatives deal with confusion, anxiety, and panic as they followed the news on COVID-19 – many of which […]

Fact-check: Vaccinated people are not more likely to die of COVID-19

A viral tweet claims that “Government of Canada data shows the triple vaccinated are over 5x more likely to die of COVID-19 than the unvaccinated”. The tweet is based on an article from The Exposé, supposedly “run by extremely ordinary, hardworking people who are sick and tired of the fear-mongering, lies and propaganda perpetuated by the mainstream media”.

Don’t ignore period pain

Pelvic pain, just before and during menstrual period, is a common complaint. Many women resort to home remedies – mostly found on social media – to help manage the pain, without seeking medical opinion. 

Fact-checking: Why context matters

In other words, adjuvants are not as “dangerous” as the social media posts may have you believe. It’s important to also consider the context and not just the facts. 

‘There is no vaccine for the infodemic’

COVID-19 pandemic came with a flow of Covid misinformation, which compromises health decisions. While not all of the misinformation is shared with malicious intent, it undermines the importance of public reports based on research in global countries.

Step up the fight against misinformation 

The health misinformation crisis won’t end with the pandemic. It’s important for healthcare professionals to be well-versed with fact-checking. 

‘Scientific research must be easy to find & share’

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, the scientific community is fighting another battle too – the infodemic. This fight can be won only if trusted medical institutions and healthcare practitioners join forces. By John Aloyzeus Reotutar We live in a world where anti-vaxxers, quack doctors, and conspiracy theorists seem to thrive. Making an attempt to […]

First Check Diaries by Dr. Debanjan Banerjee

“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. When information is cheap, meaning turns expensive.” – George Dyson I believe that every physician is inherently a fact-checker, even though we often remain unaware of it. Not taught in routine medical curriculum, not evaluated in clinical examinations and not popularized in regular medical […]

Why I became a fact-checker: A story of loss, resolve & hope

April 2 is International Fact-Checking Day and it is promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network in partnership with fact-checking organizations around the world. Because #FactCheckingisEssential.

Uncovering 2 common infertility myths

One of the most common reproductive health myths is that young and (seemingly) healthy women do not have to face any infertility issues. However, many such women struggle with achieving pregnancy, despite trying to conceive for a year or more. That’s when we diagnose the couple – not the woman – as having infertility issues and we try finding out what could be the reason.

No home remedy to induce menstruation within an hour!

Given that irregular periods are a common challenge for many women, home remedies that claim to cure the problem are hugely popular. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that any such remedy can induce menstruation instantly.

migraine

Home remedies for migraine may not be effective

While tea is considered to be a go-to drink for coping with headaches, getting relief from migraine pain can be a challenge. It’s important to seek timely medical care.

lungs problem

Decoding the ‘COVID-19 lung’

A viral image circulating on social media platforms, demonstrating the difference between a ‘normal lung’ and ‘COVID-19 lung’, is causing much distress and panic. On Instagram, the image has 1000+ likes, so far. 

First Check inducts five new members 

A flagship initiative of DataLeads and signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network, First Check has 49 members from Australia, Africa, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and Yemen.

World Cancer Day: Spread facts, not fear

Every year 4th February is observed as World Cancer Day – a day to raise awareness and strengthen the fight against the global cancer epidemic. It’s also important to address the ever-growing misinformation about cancer on social media.

misinformation

Lessons in tackling health misinformation

Understanding how the internet and social media have changed out engagement with health (mis)information, and whether we, as individuals, can successfully evaluate veracity, is a vital task.

6 COVID-19 myths that refuse to die

A viral WhatsApp video, circulating in India, peddles old misleading claims about the coronavirus in an engaging way.

Beware of home remedies for asthma

While organic compositions of natural products, prepared under laboratory conditions, can complement the use of traditional drugs, homemade juices are unlikely to help one cope better with the chronic inflammatory disorder.

What The Fact! – The truth behind relentless pandemic struggles in the US

While the rest of the world is seeing a relative lull in new cases and a dip in the active COVID-19 cases, the United States continues to fight a grim battle – nearly a year after vaccinations began. And the anti-vaxxers are not letting up, even now.

Heart Disease

No miracle cures for the heart

YouTube videos advocate easy, home-based remedies that not only promise complete cure, but also prevention of future heart problems. However, there’s little scientific evidence to support any of the claims.

Bottle gourd juice can be toxic

Research has established that consumption of bitter bottle gourd juice can be life-threatening. Yet the popularity of YouTube videos hailing the many virtues of the detox drink continues unabated.

Smokers beware: No quick fixes to detox the lungs

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Despite social media posts declaring that “lungs can be easily detoxed after smoking” with homemade remedies, there’s no scientific evidence to support the claims.

What The Fact – India blames women for climate change woes

There is a sizeable section that peddles misinformation, mis-attributes natural calamities to everything but climate change, and spreads canards about menstruating and jeans-wearing women as being the cause of disasters.

vaccine misinformation

The Facebook Papers: How vaccine misinformation thrived

While Facebook claims to have made “considerable progress” with downgrading misinformation regarding COVID vaccines in users’ feeds, the internal company documents obtained by former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower raises pertinent questions about the platform’s business model and ethics.

Myths vs. facts about breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer, the world’s most prevalent cancer. Here’s debunking five common myths about the disease.

Factually Speaking: Decoding Ivermectin

There has been growing interest in Ivermectin, a broad spectrum anti-parasitic agent, as a possible medication for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. A biologist and researcher from Italy sheds light on the facts and misconceptions about the potent drug.

What The Fact! – When the data is misrepresented

It might compel people to believe that there is no pandemic, and that we are being lied to about the virus. And this, in turn, might make them lower their guard – and indulge in COVID-inappropriate behaviour.

Dismantled: Here’s COVID skeptics proven wrong

Ever since the start of the COVID pandemic, there have been skeptics, denialists, and even conspiracy theorists keen to prove the whole pandemic as balderdash or, worse, planned. First Check looks at, and dismantles one such long-drawn attempt.

Bitter gourd juice

Bitter gourd juice cannot cure diabetes

Contrary to what viral YouTube videos claim, studies show that there could be adverse effects of consuming bitter gourd daily. Experts warn against the possibility of toxicity due to overconsumption.

It’s okay not to be positive all the time

This World Mental Health Day, let’s aim for balance and the acceptance of all emotions, rather than black-and-white thinking. Research shows that emotional invalidation and psychological inflexibility are linked to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and other mental disorders.

Why We Fact-Check Health Misinformation

It is important to focus on the context of online social networks, which have fundamentally changed the way information is produced, consumed, and transmitted.

Lemons are healthy, but they don’t cure cancer

Researchers have been studying anti-carcinogenic properties of limonoids in laboratories for years. However, they haven’t yet found any conclusive evidence to support its role in cancer treatment or prevention in humans.

COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines cannot be used to track people

Viral Facebook post in multiple South Asian languages falsely claims that Russian hackers now have access to the “exact GPS coordinates, sleep status, and more” of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

What The Fact! – Conspiracies, Concoctions and COVID

What drives the misinformation ecosystem is the lack of knowledge, fuelled by fear. If you believed what you read and watch on social media about vaccines – you will never take a vaccine, ever.

Herbal remedies can cause liver injuries

Popular herbal medicines for COVID-19 have been reported to adversely affect the liver and kidney – at times, even leading to death.

Debunking three controversial COVID-19 claims

A YouTube channel called ‘Unmask Express’ has been consistently making unscientific claims about the vaccines against COVID-19, RT-PCR tests and the existence of the coronavirus itself! First Check sets the record straight.

First Check broadens its horizons beyond Asia

The flagship initiative of DataLEADS and signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) takes its battle against medical misinformation to the global arena.

Honey and onion juice cannot cure asthma

There is no cure yet for asthma. However, inhaled medications can control the disease, unlike home remedies that offer symptomatic relief at best.

Liquorice, lemon & honey: No magic formula to boost oxygen levels in the body

Contrary to what a viral YouTube video suggests, scientific studies show that the nutritive value of home remedies to increase oxygen levels in the body is overrated. In fact, excess intake of liquorice or mulethi can cause cardiac arrest, among other health complications.

miscarriage

Cold drinks don’t lead to miscarriage in pregnant women

While studies show that carbonated, artificially-sweetened soft drinks are harmful in several ways, there’s no evidence to support claims made by a viral YouTube video about it causing miscarriage in women.

Mucormycosis

Use of alum powder and turmeric powder, mustard oil can’t prevent Mucormycosis

Two YouTube videos with thousands of views claiming use of alum powder, turmeric powder, rock salt can prevent the growth of mucormycosis are misleading and the claims in the videos are false. There is no scientific research to suggest that herbal remedies prevent or treat mucormycosis.

Pushpita Dey

What may cause mucormycosis, experts explain

A WhatsApp message claiming that humidity caused due to use of masks causes Mucormycosis (black fungus) is misleading. Experts highlight that people with poorly managed diabetes and a weak immune system are at a high risk of mucormycosis.

Misinformation

WhatsApp forward claiming ‘Vaccinated People Will Die in 2 Years’ is untrue

A widely-circulated message attributed to French virologist Luc Montagnier claims that all vaccinated people will die in 2 years due to antibody-dependent enhancement. Dr. Rohini Karandikar, a science writer at the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) and member of the Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID-19 team, lays bare the facts.