Help people searching for advice on cervical cancer jab

Last week, when I was writing Daily View hours later than I should, I linked to Mark Pack’s piece linking to Malcolm Cole’s piece about Google search results about the cervical cancer jab. Caron Lindsay has also written about this.

Last week, Malcolm Cole was warning that those worried about the cancer jab being given to teenage girls were getting misleading and inaccurate advice if they ran an internet search for more information.

Scary stories have legs, and it’s still the case, a week later, that if you search for information on this story, the leading results are the stories in the Daily Mail and other tabloids erroneously linking the tragic death of a schoolgirl with the vaccine she’d received hours earlier.

The difference between a causal link and an unfortunate coincidence is best highlighted by this satirical article on a slightly rude website “News Arse”: Panic spreads as hundreds die after reading Daily Mail.

It’s probably true that every day, tens or hundreds of Daily Mail readers die. It’s not remotely true that the Daily Mail causes the deaths. It is true that one young person has died shortly after receiving the HPV jab. It’s not true that the jab was in any way linked to her death. And yet thanks to scaremongering from tabloid newspapers and other news outlets, the idea that the HPV jab is implicated in a death will persist in people’s minds. And anyone who searches the internet at the moment to try and clear up this issue for themselves will currently only see the false information by the tabloids, and not the legitimate, researched-based information from the NHS.

So if you have written about the issue yourself, or if you plan to do so in the future, please don’t link to the stories in the irresponsible press. But do link to the pages on the NHS websites that have the real story.

Clear instructions on how to do this are all to be found in Malcolm Cole’s post.

UPDATE: I thought this was important when I wrote it over lunch time – since then, I’ve been pointed at a survey by Ofcom.

The latest study by regulatory body Ofcom, shows that children aged between 12 and 15, believe Google’s search engine ranks websites by truthfulness, rather than relevance or random selection.

Results from the study show that 32 per cent of children support the idea that Google displays search results by the most truthful website first. While 37 per cent of children are aware that the search engine revelas the most relevant site first.

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2 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 8th Oct '09 - 7:07pm

    It’s not remotely true that the Daily Mail causes the deaths.

    I dunno. We could attribute them as partially responsible for all the people who were reading a newspaper while crossing the street, and walked into heavy traffic.

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