Social Bots Tweet Dodgy Claims about Pot, Diluting Solid Science

Misleading messages about cannabis are pervasive on Twitter

A University of Southern California analysis of tens of thousands of cannabis-related posts on Twitter found that social bots regularly perpetuated bogus health claims on the platform, illustrating how false statements may drown out solid science on social media.

The study was published Dec. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We’re in a period of time where these misleading messages are pervasive online,” said Jon-Patrick Allem, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and lead author of the study. “We want the public to be aware of the difference between a demonstrated, scientifically-backed piece of health information and claims that are simply made up.”

Posts from social bots suggested that cannabis could help with an array of health problems including cancer, plantar fasciitis, and Crohn’s disease, among others.

Currently, cannabis is only approved for medical use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a small number of instances, including to help with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, with appetite stimulation in conditions like AIDS or HIV that cause weight loss, and with management of two forms of pediatric epilepsy.

By University of Southern California

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