Yahoo News appears to have confused NaturalNews with actual news. It’s not. NaturalNews is the in-house propaganda organ for Mike Adams, whom I’ll introduce in a minute (although he needs no introduction for most readers here). A couple of recent examples:
A recycled story, over a year old, from NaturalNews, appearing on Yahoo News last week. It starts out as a fairly straightforward report of the Japanese’s governments suspending its recommendation if favor of the HPV vaccine pending further research, although government health officials were still standing by the vaccine’s safety. Actually, Medscape reported that the actual rate was 12.8 serious adverse side effects reported per 1 million doses, a fact not revealed in the NaturalNews story. These effects were correlated with the vaccine; there is no evidence of causation.
After this rather tame start, NaturalNews cranks it up to 11 and beyond, as David Gorski would say. Governments which still recommend HPV vaccinations “remain under the thumb of Merck’s vaccinations spell” even though Merck is “an organization of murderers and thieves.” A scary list of adverse events are described as “side effects of Guardasil” even though causation has not been shown.
Two days ago there was an “ongoing debate”? There is no ongoing debate about “whether or not vaccines cause autism” because there never was any credible evidence that vaccines cause autism and there still isn’t.
This time, NaturalNews is doing the recycling. In 2009, according to a British news report, there was a ruling from an official called the “Information Commissioner” that the British government must release vaccine-related documents per a Freedom of Information Act request. According to NaturalNews, the released documents revealed that, in the 1980’s, GlaxoSmithKline knew that one of its vaccines was causing “encephalitis and other conditions associated with autism,” although it gives no independent confirmation of this assertion from any reliable news source. The rest of the story is a rehash of more conspiracy theories about the repeatedly debunked vaccine-autism link, citing cherry-picked evidence. Andrew Wakefield, who’s lately been reduced to giving lectures to “pediatric chiropractors,” is called a “brave soul” who “came forward publicly with data linking the MMR vaccine to autism-related health outcomes.”
Regular SBM readers need no introduction to Adams and his website. For those who’ve been fortunate enough never to have been exposed to Adams, here’s a summary:
NaturalNews … is a website operated by Mike Adams. It is dedicated to alternative medicine and various conspiracy theories, such as “chemtrails”, the alleged dangers of fluoride in drinking water, (as well as those of monosodium glutamate and aspartame) and alleged health problems caused by “toxic” ingredients in vaccines, including the now-discredited link to autism.
Adams is an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 truther, a birther and endorsed conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as well as surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. He has endorsed Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business, a movie about Stanislaw Burzynski. Steven Novella characterises Adams as “a dangerous conspiracy-mongering crank”.
In July 2014 Adams compared media outlets that wrote positively about GMOs with Nazi Germany’s propagandists, calling them, “Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of ‘feeding the world’ with toxic GMOs.” He continued with a statement that he set in boldface: “that it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.” A day after the post a website called “Monsanto Collaborator” appeared online which listed the names of scientists and journalists who allegedly collaborate with the bio industry.
David Gorski of ScienceBlogs called the site “one of the most wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet,” and the most “blatant purveyor of the worst kind of quackery and paranoid anti-physician and anti-medicine conspiracy theories anywhere on the Internet”. Peter Bowditch of the website Ratbags, and Jeff McMahon writing for Forbes commented about the site. On his NeuroLogica Blog, Steve Novella called NaturalNews “a crank alt med site that promotes every sort of medical nonsense imaginable. If it is unscientific, antiscientific, conspiracy-mongering, or downright silly, Mike Adams appears to be all for it – whatever sells the “natural” products he hawks on his site.” . . . Brian Dunning listed it as #1 on his “Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Websites” list.
After Patrick Swayze‘s death in 2009, Adams posted an article in which he remarked that Swayze, in dying, “joins many other celebrities who have been recently killed by pharmaceuticals or chemotherapy.” When Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy in May 2013 because she had the BRCA1 gene, Adams stated that “Countless millions of women carry the BRCA1 gene and never express breast cancer because they lead healthy, anti-cancer lifestyles based on smart nutrition, exercise, sensible sunlight exposure and avoidance of cancer-causing chemicals.” Gorski called the article “vile” and noted that Adams had written similarly themed articles about the death of Michael Jackson, Tony Snow, and Tim Russert.
On August 11, 2014, NaturalNews published a blog post promoting a homeopathic treatment for ebola, which was met with harsh criticism from several commentators, and was taken down later that day. In a statement on the article, NaturalNews said that the blogger who posted the article, Ken Oftedal, was “under review” and that they did not condone anyone interacting with Ebola. However, as of August 20, the site was still featuring an article written by Adams promoting the use of herbal medicines to treat Ebola.
Where did I get this description? From Wikipedia, which turned up as one of the top hits when I did a Yahoo search for “Mike Adams NaturalNews.” (Citations were omitted for brevity’s sake, although the original links are preserved.) You’d think that Yahoo employees could perform such a simple search using their own search engine before deciding to feature blurbs from NaturalNews on the Yahoo News daily web page. Either they didn’t or, even worse, ignored the copious criticism and decided to use NaturalNews as a source anyway.
I don’t know when Yahoo started featuring NaturalNews as “news.” My monitoring of the site was limited to about a month, from August 27th to September 30th. Although the Wikipedia entry was apparently created in 2013, source materials for the criticism go back to 2008 and could be found elsewhere with a bit of effort. For example, Orac has been covering Adams for years. Heck, for that matter, any intelligent person simply reading NaturalNews could have figured out that it shouldn’t be trusted.
You’ve got mail, Yahoo
Even if Yahoo’s employees were not smart enough, or didn’t care enough, to do a search for Adams and NaturalNews before exposing the public to his loathsome propaganda, at least one of them knew about it on August 27th. I sent Yahoo an e-mail on that date after I discovered, to my horror, that Yahoo News had mistakenly (giving them the benefit of the doubt) confused NaturalNews with reliable news sources such as AP, Reuters, and AFP, which it also runs. (HuffPo, another source with a sometimes tenuous grasp of scientific evidence, makes a regular appearance too.) The e-mail was sent (from my Yahoo account, no less) to the only address I could find on Yahoo’s website that seemed even remotely related to the subject: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I cited this example:
The NaturalNews story linked by Yahoo is an excellent example of the type of unproven and disproven therapies promoted by the website and Mr. Adams. It is nothing more than a series of anecdotes about unproven and potentially dangerous therapies, like Gerson Therapy for cancer. Gerson Therapy has no plausible basis in science, no evidence of effectiveness and can be dangerous. (Reference: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.) In addition, the story is promoting abandoning proven medical therapies for cancer in favor of “alternative” treatments.
I gave Yahoo these links for further information:
NaturalNews and its creator, Mike Adams, are widely criticized as promoting unfounded conspiracy theories and as being AIDS denialists and anti-vaccination, among other things. You can read the Wikipedia entry here. Science-Based Medicine’s most recent blog post about Natural News and Mr. Adams can be found here.
I told them I was a blogger for SBM and made this request:
Given this information, I would like to find out how Yahoo chose to link to Natural News and, more broadly, what process is used to vet websites and other information sources for use on Yahoo News. Could you please provide someone in the Yahoo organization who can speak with me about these issues or who would answer questions by e-mail?
No response. On September 8th, I followed up with another request. Still no response. In addition to not using Yahoo’s search engine, maybe Yahoo doesn’t read its Yahoo e-mails either.
But wait, there’s more
Yahoo’s links to NaturalNews are not limited to repeatedly debunked anti-vaccination rhetoric and promotion of bogus cancer cures.
More mercury fear mongering. Suggests mercury poisoning is rampant but is often mislabeled by the medical profession as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and other conditions and that it is the real reason for several childhood brain disorders. Repeats mercury-vaccine-autism connection myth. Advises removal of dental fillings containing mercury. Suggests the use of herbal remedies to rid the body of mercury, such as one which claims to use “power nano-colloidal zeolites and organic ingredients to aid the body in cleansing chemicals and toxic metals.” One source for this collection of misinformation: “functional medicine” guru, Dr. Mark Hyman.
While a bit histrionic, as Adams is wont to be about Ebola (and much else), the problem with this story is not so much the content, but its use as part of NaturalNews campaign to promote Adams’s Ebola “bio-preparedness” program, which advises the use of such things as herbal remedies and “essential oils.” As Orac notes, “not surprisingly, he advertises d¬¬oTerra OnGuard Essential Oil Blend, which claims to ‘support the immune system.’” doTerra, among others, recently got into hot water with the FDA for selling quack Ebola remedies, a perfectly reasonable regulatory action that sent Adams into orbit.
Despite the scary headline, the report is actually about an article in the journal Pediatrics, which found that the hospitalization rate for ingestion of buprenorphine products by unsupervised children was significantly higher than rates for all other commonly implicated medications and suggested focusing prevention efforts on that particular problem. But then NaturalNews again cranks it up to 11 again, with a rant about annual deaths from prescription drugs and a tirade against alleged federal government pot raids “bashing down doors at 6:00 AM, shooting family pets and terrorizing handcuffed parents and kids” to “show them what law and order’s all about.”
A promotion for an interview on NaturalNews Talk Radio with Dr. Howard Robins, a podiatrist and self-proclaimed “bio-oxidative therapy” expert, who has performed thousands of “Direct IV ozone treatments” and claims to have started the “oxygen bar” business. “You’ll learn how medical ozone therapy effectively destroys unwanted bacteria, fungi, viruses, plaque and, even cancer cells.” According to NaturalNews, ozone therapy was successfully being employed in the U.S. to treat anemia, respiratory ailments, infectious diseases and “countless incurable health issues,” until the FDA seized all the ozone machines, suggesting that “conventional medicine” is worried about losing business. “If you suffer from an ‘incurable’ condition – do NOT miss this show!” The American Cancer Society begs to differ, as do others.
The NaturalNews feed on Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you get to the actual site (which is, after all, the point of the links), the reader is consistently bombarded with vaccine fear-mongering, government-Big Pharma conspiracy theories, ads for a plethora of bogus products (anti-parasite treatments, how to make your own colloidal silver, homeopathic remedies), advice on this and that dietary supplement for all manner of diseases, Ebola scare articles and quack Ebola “bio-defense” methods, a myriad of ways to “detoxify” oneself, and continued promotion of the debunked “CDC whistleblower” story. It’s not for nothing that Adams and NaturalNews earned universal condemnation in the science blogosphere.
The insurance company State Farm was recently called out for featuring former SNL player and anti-vaccination activist Rob Schneider in an ad campaign. To its credit, State Farm dropped the ads. What Yahoo is doing is far worse. Rob Schneider can’t touch Mike Adams for anti-vaccination lunacy, which is just one of Adams off-the-rails specialties. NaturalNews feeds should disappear from Yahoo News and the company should apologize for ever running them.
Yahoo didn’t pay any attention to me. Maybe others will fill their inbox with protests after reading this. I hope so.