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Misinformation about illicit drugs is spreading on social media – and the consequences could be dangerous – Weedmaps News

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We’re all familiar with the term “fake news” and have probably witnessed the speed at which these stories can circulate on social media. Fake news stories can be about almost any topic, but increasingly misinformation about illicit drugs is becoming common. But the consequences of such false information can be dangerous – even deadly.

There tends to be a high level of interest about drug use myths on social media, driven in part by curiosity, but also fear of the unknown as some new and bizarre threat is reported – but often without any evidence to back up the hysteria. Some of this interest will be amplified by algorithms used by social media platforms, which tailor content based on user search history.

However, this misinformation is also further spread by mainstream media news outlets that pick up on the popularity and publish stories repeating the false information. Misinformation on social media is also easy to access, engaging, and may be shared by friends and family, making it appear more trustworthy. And, for many people, social media is the only place they get their news.

Dangerous synthetic drugs are common subjects of misleading “fake” news spread on social media. Given their potential dangers, it’s understandable that many people are concerned. This misinformation could be harmful, especially to those who may take the drug.

One such example is the deadly drug fentanyl, an opiate that can be anywhere between 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. A myth that you can overdose even by touching a small amount of this drug spread on social media – and was even perpetuated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, which claimed that touching or inhaling airborne fentanyl could be deadly. As this warning was issued by a government department, many people took this misinformation seriously. It spread quickly and widely on social media even after the medical community agreed that overdose due to fentanyl skin contact is impossible.

Researchers tracked the spread of information about fentanyl between 2015 and 2019 by using a media analysis tool which was able to track the number of fake news articles created on and spread by social media, and could also track the number of potential views by looking at article shares. They found that erroneous information had a reach 15 times greater than correct information. Some of this included the myth about how touching the drug could be toxic. Most of this misinformation about fentanyl originated from Facebook posts created in Texas and Pennsylvania, and potentially reached 67 million people.

While fentanyl use might not be common, this sort of misinformation could have dangerous consequences. For example, a person might not help someone who has overdosed if they believe any physical contract with them – even to administer chest compressions – could cause them harm, too.

Other synthetic drugs, including Krokodyl and “spice” (a type of synthetic cannabis) have also triggered widespread misinformation. Krokodyl has been portrayed on social media as a chemical which can eat your flesh, even after only one use. Spice, on the other hand, has been described in the media as a drug that causes users to rip off their clothes as if it’s given them “superhuman” strength.

While it’s unlikely someone would take a drug knowing it causes severe damage, the idea of using something to gain extraordinary physical strength might entice potential users. In both instances, this information was wrong, but that didn’t stop them from going viral on social media.

It is often the young or naive that are victims of misinformation about some new drug or using a drug to achieve an effect. This is illustrated in a recent case when information about the antihistamine Benadryl was circulated on social media. Users reported that consuming this drug caused hallucinations and would challenge each other to take the drug, sadly at least one person died as a result.

Beyond these extreme examples, it’s also becoming routine to see misinformation on social media about drugs such as cannabis. In particular, claims being made about cannabis-based medicinal products, which suggest that everything from pain to terminal cancer can be cured. These are made despite the lack of research and evidence that support these assertions. Tragically this type of misinformation offers false hope to people who are often at a very vulnerable point in their life. These false claims are harmful in themselves, but could be really damaging if people choose to stop traditional medical intervention and use these products in the belief that their health will improve.

Misinformation about illicit drugs may also make them sound more appealing to people who aren’t risk adverse. For them the appeal is in the risk that the drug poses. Widely circulated fake news may even be the reason they try these types of drugs to begin with.

Finding ways of reducing this type of misinformation is important to prevent any dangerous consequences. Social media platforms have an important role to play in regulating information – should they choose to. Educating people in how to spot fake news, and better education for young people in schools about drugs may also prevent the further spread of such harmful misinformation.

We need to accept that there will always be interest in drugs and that false information about them will accompany that curiosity. Social media platforms have the ability to mitigate misinformation, but they may not have the will if an action threatens their commercial interests. So young people and their families are left to separate fact from fiction as they try to reduce the potential risks some drugs pose.


By Ian Hamilton, Associate Professor of Addiction., University of York and Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, Professor of Psychiatry, Washington University in St Louis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The Conversation US arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse — and recognition of the vital role that academic experts can play in the public arena.

The Conversation’s editorial process is deliberate and collaborative. Editors pay close attention to the news environment to identify the issues citizens are concerned about. They reach out to leading scholars across academia and work with them to unlock their knowledge for the broad public.

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Trump calls India, China air ‘filthy’; social media weighs in – Al Jazeera English

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US President Donald Trump describing the air in India and China as “filthy” has triggered mixed reactions on social media, with many amused or embarrassed by the statement.

Trump made the remarks on Thursday night as he denounced Democratic rival Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change during their second and final presidential debate ahead of the November 3 election.

At the debate in Nashville, Trump renewed his criticism that global action on climate change was unfair to the United States.

“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India – it’s filthy. The air is filthy,” Trump said at the debate in Nashville.

Trump charged that Biden’s climate plan was an “economic disaster” for US states such as Texas and Oklahoma which produce oil.

Biden said climate change is “an existential threat to humanity”.

“We have a moral obligation to deal with it,” he said. “We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years.”

Trump ‘stating the obvious’

Reacting to Trump’s comments, Vishnu Som, a journalist working for India’s NDTV network, said the US president was “stating the obvious” and the country’s air is “sadly filthy”.

Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Print news website, said there was “no point in being outraged”.

“Every year about 15 of the 20 cities with the filthiest air in the world are in India. We’ve also done little to address this,” Gupta posted on Twitter.

Trump’s remarks came as air pollution levels in parts of the the Indian capital, New Delhi, soared to “severe” levels on Friday.

The city was blanketed in noxious haze as smoke from agricultural burning, vehicle fumes and industrial emissions – combined with cooler temperatures and slow-moving winds that trap pollutants over the city – turns air in the city into a toxic soup every winter.

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city for the second straight year in 2019, according to Swiss-based group, IQ AirVisual, that gathers air-quality data globally.

India was also home to 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, said the study released earlier this year.

More than 116,000 Indian infants died from air pollution in the first month of life, and the corresponding figure was 236,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a State of Global Air 2020 study released on Wednesday.

Still, some on social media condemned Trump’s comments, calling it “a humiliation”.

“Wow. Wonderful. Great way to win over Indian Americans, Trump,” wrote US-based journalist, Wajahat Ali.

The planet has already warmed by approximately 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, enough to boost the intensity of deadly heatwaves, droughts and tropical storms.

But Trump has been repeatedly accused of downplaying the threats posed by climate change.

In 2018, he pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming below 2C (3.6F).

The US president’s remarks came on the heels of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi next week to hold talks aimed at covering bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, according to the Indian government.

During the first presidential debate too, Trump had spoken critically of India, questioning its coronavirus data amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic.

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National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook – Campbell River Mirror

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Black Press Media has joined Canada’s news media publishers in calling for all political parties in Parliament to support the adoption of Australia’s approach to combat the monopolistic practices of Google and Facebook.

The two American web giants control the lion’s share of online advertising dollars and distribute newspaper content without compensation in Canada, as in democracies around the world. The model being implemented in Australia counters these monopolistic practices and levels the digital playing field – at no cost to taxpayers and without user fees or other charges.

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues. They use their monopoly control not just to divert advertising from news media publishers, but also to divert millions in advertising revenue that they place on news media sites. Even when advertisers pay specifically to advertise on news media sites, Google and Facebook keep most of that revenue, while gathering and using data on news media site readers and advertisers for their own purposes.

Black Press Media CEO Rick O’Connor stated, “It is vital that we establish the principle that the content we produce and that is subsequently picked up and carried on the platforms such as Google and Facebook should be compensated by the platforms so that we can continue to provide the journalism that our local communities want.

“This is a principle that is only recently being accepted by the platforms, thus the need to work in concert with the rest of the industry to fight for local journalism.”

The recommendation that Canada adopt the Australian model is contained in Levelling the Digital Playing Field, a report commissioned by News Media Canada and prepared by global advisory firm FTI Consulting, which conducted an in-depth analysis of actions taken in democracies around the world to address the same challenge.

News Media Canada represents more than 90 per cent of news media readership in Canada including daily, regional, community, and ethnocultural news publications.

“A strong, diverse and independent news media is valued by Canadians and crucial to our democracy,” said Jamie Irving, vice-president of New Brunswick news publishing company BNI and Chair of News Media Canada’s working group.

“Publishing real news costs money, and Google and Facebook – two of the biggest companies in the world – cannot continue to be allowed to free-ride on the backs of Canadian news media publishers who produce news content, without fair compensation. The time to tackle the global web giants, as the federal government indicated in September, is now.”

Key elements of the Australian model include:

  • An effective approach that requires no new government funding, consumer taxes, or user fees.
  • Publishers, with the approval of government, form a collective bargaining unit to negotiate compensation for the use of their content and intellectual property. It is only through this government approved collective approach that the immense monopoly power of the web giants can be countered, and the digital playing field levelled.
  • A code of conduct to ensure that the web monopolies do not use new algorithms and other proprietary technology to expand their market domination and entrench unfair competitive practices.
  • Enforcement. Under the Australia model, the web giants are subject to fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a single infraction. Penalties of this scale are the only effective ways to rein in companies of this unprecedented size and power.
  • Comparable context. Both Canada and Australia publishers are facing significant challenges from the web giants. Canada and Australia share strong regional identities, and similar parliamentary and legal systems.

The government of Canada announced in its speech from the throne on Sept. 23, “The government will act to ensure their revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production and distribution of our stories, on screen, in lyrics, in music and in writing.”

News Media Canada is calling on the government to tackle the web giants and adopt the Australian model in Canada.

The CEO members of the following companies are leading the discussions with the government of Canada including Glacier Media, Black Press, Torstar, Postmedia, Globe and Mail, La Presse, Quebecor and Brunswick News.

Canadian-owned Black Press operates more than 80 print and website publications in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.

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The Canadian Ethnic Media Association Celebrates its 42nd Annual Awards for Journalistic Excellence in a Vibrant Virtual Production – Canada NewsWire

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TORONTO, Oct. 22, 2020 /CNW/ – The Canadian Ethnic Media Association is proud to present its 42nd Annual Awards for Journalistic Excellence on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.  Undaunted by the limitations imposed by the devastating Coronovirus, Covid-19, which have made traditional celebratory gatherings at ballroom dinners and receptions impossible, a vibrant Awards presentation will be conducted within the framework of CEMA’s first-ever virtual production. 

CEMA Chair, Madeline Ziniak, is pleased the organization was able to surmount the unprecedented challenges of this year to continue this much sought-after annual recognition of Canada’s multicultural community media. “The 42nd Awards of Journalistic Excellence continue to platform Canada’s best in the ethnic media landscape and to emphasize its importance to Canadian audiences”.

The historic awards presentation will emanate from CEMA’s Website: www.canadianethnicmedia.com, by way of links to the viewer’s choice of either its Facebook Page or YouTube, at 8 p.m. EST, in Ontario.  Viewers across the country will be able to watch the winners’ at-home acceptance speeches, remote artistic performances, and special guest messages at the following local times:

Newfoundland  (Newfoundland Standard Time)

9:30 p.m. NST

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (Atlantic Time)

9:00 p.m. AST

Quebec and Ontario (Eastern Standard Time)

8:00 p.m. EST

Manitoba and Saskatchewan (Central Standard Time)

7:00 p.m. CST

Alberta (Mountain Standard Time)

6:00 p.m.MST

British Columbia (Pacific Standard Time)

5:00 p.m. PST

In addition to recognizing the outstanding work of ethnic journalists across Canada, the virtual production will also feature the unveiling of CEMA’s new logo – a contemporized re-imagining of the legacy emblem that has been symbolic of reportage since the organization’s inception in 1978.  The new logo pays homage to the fundamentals that inspired CEMA founder Sierhey Khmara Ziniak to rally the country’s first collective of ethnic writers and journalists, while it also salutes today’s technical and philosophic advancements in newsgathering and dissemination.

The Awards presentation is the pinnacle of a very busy year for the Canadian Ethnic Media Association. CEMA has worked tirelessly to advocate for ethnic media operations suffering large advertising revenue losses, while trying to keep their communities abreast of the virus, in their primary languages of comfort.  CEMA proactively took their plight to the country’s three levels of government, making the case for the importance of ethnic media in Canada. 

Also during this year, notably the 5th Anniversary of the CEMA Media Directory, the association responded to the consistent demand for access to the Directory from all sectors, public and private, by undertaking the massive job of refreshing its listings to ensure complete and confirmed accuracy.

The year 2020 will be remembered by many for what they could not attempt and achieve; for the sickness, loss of life and livelihoods that plagued their families and friends; and the economic instability that forced some to abandon their dreams and ultimately close their businesses. Despite the challenges presiding over this year, CEMA, always a determined, forward-thinking force, chose to rise to the occasion.  CEMA found a way to be true to its mandate, pay respect to its momentum and continuity, and to celebrate the best work of its contemporaries.  It is calling its national membership and those interested in journalistic excellence to participate in a fresh and ambitious initiative – an historic virtual presentation of the 42nd Annual CEMA Awards for Journalistic Excellence.  This special online production opens viewing access to interested parties right across the country.  

The Canadian Ethnic Media Association is happy to welcome the return of Ontario Creates as the Sponsor of the 42nd Annual Awards for Journalistic Excellence.  Ontario Creates is an agency of the Government of Ontario that facilitates economic development, investment and collaboration in Ontario’s creative industries including the music, book, magazine, film, television and interactive digital media sectors. ontariocreates.ca

The first virtual presentation of CEMA’s Awards for Journalistic Excellence is produced by Stan Papulkas of Edmonton, Alberta. Stan is a veteran independent television producer who has many years experience working with Canada’s multicultural and multilingual television programmers.

SOURCE Canadian Ethnic Media Association

For further information: Averill Maroun, Canadian Ethnic Media Association, Marketing and Media Relations, Phone: 905 881-3955, E-mail: [email protected]

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