When I gave birth to my son, I entered a world of chronic illness. I am a healthy middle-aged woman. The only time I have ever spent a night in the hospital was my entry into the world and my son’s birth. I haven’t broken a bone, have no major health issues, and have never needed stitches due to an accident. When I entered this world, I was naive and uneducated about chronic illness. I knew very little about the predators that prey on families like mine. The chronic illness world is full of snake-oil salespeople that have the cure for everything. Facebook gives these predators a platform to spread fake health news.
In the early days, I felt desperate to help my son. At age three months, doctors informed my family that my son had an incurable disease. The diseases are treatable. However, to remain alive, he takes medications to manage his illnesses. Early on I felt overwhelmed by his drugs. Medications do keep him alive, but they also have a lot of side effects.
His medications can cause osteoporosis, high intracranial pressure, increased bruising, and tooth decay to name a few. Needless to say, I hated that my son needed to be on medications.
When I logged on to Facebook, I shared my frustrations about my son’s diseases. I wanted support from my friends and family. Ultimately, what I ended up getting was a litany of propositions for ways to get off medications to cure my son.
A neighbor suggested I try Plexus. She said my son’s hypoglycemia was the result of leaky gut. I knew that his hypoglycemia was the result of having no pituitary gland. That fact didn’t stop her from pushing me to consider her “magical” pink drink. She said her husband got off all his medications. Her family was the healthiest they had ever been she told me.
I knew the information she provided me was not factual. The products she wanted to sell me do not have FDA approval for any ailment. Had I followed her directions, my son would have died had I discontinued his pharmaceutical medications.
I had the intelligence to know better. However, I know many people don’t have the same luxury. Individuals that are chronically ill are tired of feeling sick all the time. Many of them want a way to fix the issues. Medications can make them feel groggy, foggy, or not like themselves. Missing work, school, or life isolates them from the world. Social media is the only network these people have, and many of them are desperate to find relief.
Facebook is the largest social media network in the world. They estimate to have over 2 billion users. The platform is enormous. The mere size of the platform makes it hard for Facebook to police the information being shared by users.
Predators were hawking snake oil use this to their advantage and prey on people like me. We are offered quick fixes, provided links to fake news sources, and given testimonials about the products. People desperate for healing and recovery can easily overlook the massive red flags. All they want is someone to provide them hope; the predators give them false hope.
Facebook provides a platform to people like Ty Bollinger, Jillian Epperly, Kerri Rivera, Reba Bailey, Jim Humble, and Jason Vale to sell their pseudoscience remedies and cures for all sorts of ailments. Additionally, Multi-Level-Marketing companies like IT Works, DoTERRA, Young Living, Plexus, Herbalife, Amway, and Juice Plus use the platform to sell unregulated products to improve and treat health-related issues.
On a daily basis, individuals in the chronic illness community get offers of miracle cures from these predatory people. Despite the fact that none of the products pushed are FDA approved, the products are touted as miracle cures.
Essential Oil salespeople encourage people to ditch prescription medications. In 2014, when an Ebola outbreak ravaged parts of Africa, both Young Living and DoTERRA reps said essential oils could kill Ebola. This landed both of these companies in hot water for making outlandish claims. The FDA issued a warning letter to both companies following these claims.
Even though the FDA has tried to stop them, the outlandish claims continue to be made today. However, what is worse is that Facebook provides them with a vehicle to continue to sell the products.
Jason Vale spent time in Federal Prison for saying apricot seeds cured cancer. Despite his felon status, his Facebook page has more than 218,000 followers. Now Jason claims juicing will cure everything.
Reba Bailey owner of Humaworm has issued a warning letter by the FDA in 2017 for her outlandish claims. They have requested she remove the sale of products. She believes parasites cause all forms of illness. She sells products to rid the body of parasites. Despite her legal issues, her Facebook group has 29,000 members.Kerri Rivera cannot sell products in the State of Illinois. She hawks Miracle Mineral Solution or bleach as a cure for autism. The State Attorney General of Illinois made Kerri sign an agreement to no longer sell or present any conferences in Illinois. According to NBC Chicago, the Attorney General asserted that Rivera “makes unsubstantiated health and medical claims,” and that she “lacks competent and reliable scientific evidence to support her claims that chlorine dioxide can treat autism.”
However, Kerri continues to have 2 Facebook pages with over 6,000 followers.
Jillian Epperly of Jilly Juice has an open investigation with the Ohio State Attorney General for making unsubstantiated claims. She has been forwarded to the FDA for review as well. Yet, her Facebook profile has more than 5,000 followers.
All of these examples show a pattern of apathy by Facebook to stop pseudoscience from spreading on their platform. Parents use many of these “cures” on their children.
Poison control has seen an uptick in poisoning related calls from essential oils.
There are numerous reports of deaths related to Miracle Mineral Solution.
A man using Jillian Epperly’s Jilly Juice died within a month of starting her protocol.
Still, Facebook remains complicit in there inability to stop these people from promoting their dangerous products. The man that died from Jillian’s protocol found her on Facebook.
At what point do we start to look to Facebook as a guilty party in the harm done to the people that see these products on their platform?
How many more people need to die or get seriously injured before Facebook shuts down the pages and businesses that sell these miracle cures?
False information spreads rapidly on social media. Individuals seeking relief can be easily confused by these predators. Most of them provide sources and testimonials for their product’s benefits. However, all of these products are illegal to distribute or against the law in the U.S. None of these people can use television or traditional radio to get out their message.
Facebook needs to bar them from using their platform to sell their products.
Facebook has become just as culpable in the harm done by these people. Until they stop these predators, no one is safe from the outlandish claims and predatory practices.
Is Facebook murdering people indirectly by allowing these people and businesses to flourish on their platform?
I believe they are.
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