Even social networks specifically for doctors are battling with anti-vaccination misinformation

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Not a doctorYou expect a certain amount of… ‘creative interpretation’ on social media but you wouldn’t think that a social network for doctors would have an issue with anti-vaccine misinformation. But that’s apparently the case on Doximity — which is an excellent name for a medical professional’s social network… or a dark web information broker. This one is the former.

Doctored information

Doximity is an app designed for medical professionals to network — like LinkedIn, but everyone’s wearing a stethoscope — but of late it has seen an uptick of anti-vaccine posts on the service. A report from CNBC found that actual doctors are posting anti-vaccine views on the network, in a similar vein to that found in less… educated parts of the internet. Like Facebook.

Dr Paul Malarik, a retired psychiatrist, explains that “You rarely get to the level of microchips in vaccines, but a lot of this stuff is pretty close to it.” The comments are being posted by doctors and osteopaths, using their real names. That’s just how the US-based social network works, but since you have to be a verified doctor to join, you wouldn’t expect this sort of view to turn up there.

Doximity itself commented on the matter, saying that fewer than 0.1% of its members are espousing these views — which is often the case on the internet. It tends to be a vocal minority getting all of the (negative) attention, and for some reason they all own fedoras. The service points out that, even though it’s a serious minority posting misinformation, it’s working on improving its response times to flagged information. It also explains how it ensures accuracy in the information that’s posted to the service.

But it’s worth remembering that doctors, like everyone else, are human. The man or woman in charge of your medical health is just as capable of holding a disproven point of view as your average internet nutcase. Your surgeon could be a flat-Earther, for example, and you’ll never know unless he tells you. A doctor that doesn’t know, or acknowledge, how vaccines work is rare, true, but there have to be a few out there. As comedian George Carlin famously said, “Somewhere out there is the world’s worst doctor. The scariest part is that someone has an appointment with him tomorrow.”

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Brett writes for Stuff's digital platform and edits Stuff's print magazine, in between reading science fiction and every Batman comic he can get his hands on.

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