Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 53

“Handling the Truth”

Earlier this month, worldnewsdaily.com posted a story on social media about the FDA’s July 31, 2015 approval of a “New Heroin-based Vaccine (That) Could Eradicate Chickenpox Disease” in children. The ring of truth led to hundreds of Facebook likes and Twitter re-tweets.

In the article, Bob Flanagan quoted Dr. Yu Shi Jung (below) as saying, “Heroin tends to attach to the chickenpox virus which stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as a threat and destroys unwanted microorganisms.”

Dr. Jung’s affiliation was not listed.

In response to the news, an indignant Association for a Vaccine-free America spokesperson immediately asked, “Why would I inject my children with heroin to get rid of such an insignificant disease as chickenpox?” Why indeed? Other commenters quickly confirmed that chickenpox was rarely fatal.

Of course, this story was completely bogus, one of many generated by hoaxers at worldnewsdaily.com.

Those using social media are bombarded with unfiltered information from friends and followers. While vouched truthful by the originators, it need not be believed.

In fact, on the same day, the FDA did approve an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the OraQuick™ Ebola Rapid Antigen Test for point-of-care detection of the Ebola Zaire Virus in symptomatic patients, as an alternative to slower but more sensitive viral nucleic acid testing. A letter of authorization is available on the official FDA website.

On CNN’s Reliable Sources show this week, TV and radio personality Michael Smerconish warned that the distinction between news and entertainment is growing blurry, and that viewers should not confuse the two. This, on the same day that news outlets like CNN were giving Donald Trump ten times more coverage than any other Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate.  This, in the same month that Jon Stewart signed off from his final The Daily Show, after sixteen years of admired newsy satire.

Social media and CNN coverage share the same 24/7 real time pressure to create content. The quality of that quantity can be questioned, and is often questionable. Fortunately, scientific and medical information sharing does not follow the news cycle. As a result of deliberate peer review, there is less chance of short-cycle harmful information becoming actionable.

Finding the truth takes time, and effort.

On the other hand completely, this month we celebrate the ninth anniversary of the 2006 coining of the term “cloud computing” by Google’s Eric Schmidt (above). My on-line non-Wikipedia sourced research has also determined that the term “cloud” was first quoted in a figure (below) published by MIT internet scientists Sharon Gillett and Mitchell Kapor. Those using the term daily should probably read their prescient 1997 scholarly paper at http://ccs.mit.edu/papers.CCSWP197/CCSWP197.html  

It must be true, because I tweeted about it yesterday!

Have you ever wondered about the origins of words like “biotechnology” and “business-to-business (B2B) internet”? When a start-up seeks financing through the issuance of shares in an initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S., the Securities Act of 1933 kicks in. For investors to be assured “full and fair” disclosure of what the NewCo. makes, idiosyncratic ideas and language must be translated by marketing firms into non-technical wording that can be understood by people not working in the business. Being labeled a “biotechnology” or “B2B” start-up adds legitimacy, and renders the NewCo. part of an analogous business model in a comparable business sector.

When these and other terms are hash-tagged (#) on social media, they become metadata connects to similar themes and content. The term “hash tag” was first used in a blog post by Stowe Boyd on August 26, 2007 (“Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings”). This Twitter tool and robotic trending analytics are the basis for social media marketing influencers moving products and services.

The Truth, not Trump truisms or bot re-tweets or the 2005 Steven Colbert Report’s truthiness (“feels right in the gut…” without confounding logic or facts), is hard to find and often harder to handle.

Valid information must be actively sought.

Easily accessed content should be handled with great care. 

We in the Square know that the difference matters. When civilization ends, it might just be at the speed of the #internet.

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