Why Vaccine Advocates Don’t Need Google to Police the Internet

On Monday, Slate ran an article from Future Tense by Evgeny Morozov called Warning: This Site Contains Conspiracy Theories – Anti-vaccine activists, 9/11 deniers and Google’s social search.  The article is based on a recent study in Vaccine that examined the strategies, tactics and content of several anti-vaccination websites.  I would highly recommend reading the study if you have an interest in online science-based communication.

The study’s author, Anna Kata of the department of anthropology at McMaster University, outlines how anti-vaccination websites increase their own relevancy in Google search results through a myriad of what is essentially SEO, one-way and three-way link exchanges.

While Kata briefly notes possible solutions to the SEO issue, Morozov goes a step further by recommending two possible solutions: 1. A browser extension that would ‘red flag’ websites that use anti-science keywords and 2. For Google to “exercise a heavier curatorial control in presenting search results.”

I take issue with both of these proposed solutions.  Before I go forward, in order to ward off starting any conspiracy theories of my own, I would like to state explicitly that to the best of my knowledge Google isn’t investigating or implementing either of the options suggested by Morozov. Continue reading

How Social Media Is Turning Us All Into First Responders

I’m not a doctor or a grief counselor but social media has turned me into one and it is turning us all into first responders, for better or worse.

Last year a friend posted Facebook that she was going to take her daughter, who had a fever, to a minute clinic to get her annual flu shot.  Her reasoning seemed sound at first blush: She was tight on time and her daughter was already sick and already miserable, so why not bite the bullet and do it now?

Several friends had weighed in on her status empathizing with her predicament.  I jumped in an urged her to wait at least 48 hours after her daughter’s fever had broken to have her vaccinated, or at least take her daughter to a walk-in clinic that night where a physician would oversee the immunization.  After my comment, my friend called the on-call nurse who told her the same thing. Continue reading

How H1N1 Changed My Life

When I was in my mid-20s, like most, I went through a career shift.  I had moved to the States with my husband and found a job at a company I liked, but didn’t feel purposeful.  I was 27 and knew it was time to go back to school.

I started taking classes at a local in-state university and settled on communication.  I liked it well enough, I had been doing it for years and I told myself that I could work for a non-profit when I graduated and somehow change the world that way.

H1N1

At the same time the H1N1 pandemic flu outbreak began to garner attention on the news.  I paid little attention to it.  I had always gotten my flu shot, less out of a greater responsibility to prevent the spread of the flu, but because I didn’t want to get the flu myself.  At the time, I reasoned that I would get the H1N1 flu shot once it was opened up to those who weren’t in a priority group.  Until I could get the shot I reasoned that I wasn’t likely to get H1N1 and that it wouldn’t be severe if I got it.

Sound familiar, risk communicators?

Then I got it. Continue reading