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Fake news on drugs: post-truth and misinformation

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyze the discourses about illicit drugs in internet publications whose content was identified as false in fact-checking platforms. This is a qualitative study based on discourse analysis procedures. From an internet search, 85 false news articles about drugs were selected. The analysis indicates that negative and alarmist approaches are the most common. The tragic outcome most frequently cited was death. Other negative outcomes were cited, such as: robberies, turning into a zombie, cancer, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, and even cannibalism. Three units of discourse were identified: satire about drugs with the potential to deceive; ‘drughead’ as a category of accusation; and an epidemic of illicit drug use. As a background to the problematization of the fake news phenomenon, we question conceptions that advocate the impossibility of understanding the real world and allow the academic/scientific knowledge to be equated with personal convictions, reinforcing irrational subjectivities that tend to strengthen the reception and spread of fake news in the most varied fields of knowledge.

Keywords:
Collective Health; Drug Users; Communication in Health; Qualitative Research

Resumo

O objetivo deste artigo é analisar os discursos sobre drogas em publicações da internet cujo conteúdo foi identificado como falso em plataformas de checagem de dados. Trata-se de estudo de abordagem qualitativa, que seguiu procedimentos de análise do discurso. A partir de pesquisa na internet, selecionaram-se 85 notícias falsas sobre drogas. A análise indica que o tom negativo e alarmista é o mais comum. O desfecho trágico mais citado foi a morte. Outros desfechos negativos também foram lembrados, como: assalto, transformar-se em zumbi, câncer, prostituição, infecções sexualmente transmissíveis e até mesmo canibalismo. Foram identificadas três unidades de discurso: sátira sobre drogas com potencial para enganar; drogado como categoria de acusação; e epidemia das drogas ilícitas. Como pano de fundo da problematização acerca do fenômeno fake news, questionam-se concepções que advogam a impossibilidade da compreensão do real, abrindo espaço para que o conhecimento acadêmico-científico seja equiparado a convicções pessoais, reforçando subjetivismos e irracionalismos que tendem a fortalecer a recepção e a proliferação de fake news nos mais variados campos do conhecimento.

Palavras-chave:
Saúde Coletiva; Usuários de Drogas; Comunicação em Saúde; Pesquisa Qualitativa

Introduction

The fake news phenomenon became popular in the U.S. presidential election. This neologism, resumed in the 2016 elections, was elected the “word of the year 2017” by the British dictionary Collins (‘Fake news’…, 2017‘FAKE NEWS’ é eleita palavra do ano e ganhará menção em dicionário britânico. BBC Brasil, Londres, 2 nov. 2017. Disponível em: <Disponível em: https://bbc.in/2DjRu9d >. Acesso em: 18 mar. 2019.
https://bbc.in/2DjRu9d...
).

The growing eminence of fake news in the media evidences the need to understand them. Allcott and Gentzkow (2017ALLCOTT, H.; GENTZKOW, M. Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, Pittsburgh, v. 31, n. 2, p. 211-36, 2017.) define fake news as intentional and demonstrably false news, which could induce the reader into error. For Paula, Silva and Blanco (2018PAULA, L. T.; SILVA, T. R. S.; BLANCO, Y. A. Pós-verdade e fontes de informação: um estudo sobre fake news. Revista Conhecimento em Ação, Rio de Janeiro, v. 2, n. 1, p. 93-110, 2018.), fake news relates to the theme of post-truth, which, in turn, was elected the word of the year in 2016 by the Oxford dictionary. Post-truth may explain the phenomenon in which objective facts have less power of persuasion and formation of public opinion in the face of personal beliefs (Harsin, 2018HARSIN, J. Post-truth and critical communication studies. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, Oxford, 20 dez. 2018. Disponível em: <Disponível em: http://bit.ly/34qHy9S >. Acesso em: 21 ago. 2019.
http://bit.ly/34qHy9S...
).

Derakhshan and Wardle (2017DERAKHSHAN, H.; WARDLE, C. Information disorder: definitions. In: UNDERSTANDING AND ADDRESSING THE DISINFORMATION ECOSYSTEM, 2017, Philadelphia. Proceedings… Philadelphia: Annenberg School for Communication, 2017. p. 5-12. Disponível em: <Disponível em: http://bit.ly/34oI9sG >. Acesso em: 21 ago. 2019.
http://bit.ly/34oI9sG...
) identified seven types of fake news: satire or parody; false connection; misleading content; false context; imposter content; manipulated content; and fabricated content. In this sense, not every fake news creates new, totally false content, which makes it difficult to verify the veracity of information.

Fact-checking itself is not immune to distortions. After all, the definition of what is true, lie, inaccurate, exaggerated or unsustainable information is also crossed by interests and convictions.

Some institutional responses have been organized against fake news, for example, the publication of tips to help people identify virtual rumors, such as the diagram of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA, 2019IFLA - INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF LIBRARY ASSOCIATIONS. How to spot fake news. Haia, 15 ago. 2019. Disponível em: <Disponível em: http://bit.ly/2XVGFno >. Acesso em: 17 ago. 2019.
http://bit.ly/2XVGFno...
), translated into 41 languages, as well as the formation of collaborative fact-checking networks. However, to identify and scotch every photo, video and news seems a herculean task, even if accompanied by a massive process of digital literacy.

Although consciousness-raising measures are in prominence recently, fake news is not something new, as rumors and scams have always been in traditional media (Count, 2018). Its rapid spread and the relative ease of access by wide strata of the population is new, given the new media’s power of reach.

Global growth and the direct influence of fake news in public opinion and everyday behavior have concerned various sectors of society. This is so serious that it was associated with the drop in vaccination coverage rates worldwide (Jervelund, 2018JERVELUND, S. S. How social media is transforming the spreading of knowledge: implications for our perceptions concerning vaccinations and migrant health. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, Thousand Oaks, v. 46, n. 2, p. 167-169, 2018.), which led Brazilian Ministry of Health to create its own channel to combat “fake news on health” in 2018.

Fake news content that directly or indirectly addresses health and drugs can vary a lot, covering a broad spectrum between sensationalism and social panic.

Noticeably, in the area of drugs, the genesis of U.S. prohibitionism was also based on dissemination of questionable research and information in the first decades of the 20th century (Hari, 2018HARI, J. Na fissura: uma história do fracasso no combate às drogas. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018.). Because of the many stigmas surrounding drug use (Baratta, 1994BARATTA, A. Introdução a uma sociologia da droga. In: MESQUITA, F.; BASTOS, F. I. (Org.). Drogas e aids: estratégias e redução de danos. São Paulo: Hucitec, 1994. p. 21-43.), news related to it seems especially susceptible to the proliferation of false and prejudiced information.

This study aims to analyze drug discourses in online publications whose content has been identified as false on data verification platforms.

Method

This is a qualitative study that used critical discourse analysis (Meurer, 2005MEURER, J. L. Gêneros textuais na análise crítica de Fairclough. In: MEURER, J. L.; MOTTA-ROTH, D. (Ed.). Gêneros: teorias, métodos, debates. São Paulo: Parábola, 2005. p. 81-106.), which understands a discursive occurrence as text, as a manifestation of discourses, and as a social practice.

According to Bakhtin (2011BAKHTIN, M. M. Estética da criação verbal. 6. ed. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2011.), the discourse unit is the utterance, not a phrase or a clause disconnected from social totality. As a concrete process, communication comprises active interlocutors, who, inserted in the reality, turn to the response and to the other’s discourses.

Therefore, starting from critical discourse analysis studies, this article comprises fake news as a mediation of reality. That is, it expresses the speaking subjects’ intentionality and their social positioning, because it is full of ideology.

Two fact-checking agencies were used to investigate news, namely E-farsas.com and Boatos.org. Both compile and elucidate all kinds of rumors and fake news circulating on social networks. They are the largest active agencies specialized in fact-checking in Brazil, disregarding Apublica.org, which exclusively investigates public administration.

To ensure scientific rigor for this research, exhaustive searches were carried out. We tried to compose the empirical corpus with broad search of news on these fact-checking sites. In December 2018, the news was surveyed on each platform, using the words: droga (drug); maconha (marijuana); álcool (alcohol); cocaína (cocaine); crack; cerveja (beer); cigarro (cigarette). The pieces of news were selected after reading title, subtitle and full text. Those who did not address the themes of drug, vaccines and other medicines used for therapeutic purposes were excluded from the corpus.

Initially, we only used the E-farsas.com portal to search news. For presentation purposes, each news was numbered, adding the letter “f”.

Table 1
Selected articles from the E-farsas.com portal

After this first selection, we started another news survey, using the Boatos.org platform, which were also numbered, adding the letter “b”.

Table 2
Selected articles from the Boatos.org portal

We selected 105 articles that addressed the drug theme, 38 from E-farsas.com portal and 67 from Boatos.org. After reading all the articles, 20 similar checked contents were identified between both portals. They were not excluded from the analysis because they present different comments, versions or dates. However, they will be grouped, adding the symbol “~”, to be more easily identified when the analysis refers to fake news and not to the checking article. These are: f1~b15; f2~b2; f6~b11; f7~b14; f8~b3; f14~b19; f15~b22; f17~b26; f18~b31; f22~b28; f23~b48; f24~b35; f25~b42; f28~b43; f29~b33; f30~b44; f33~b67; f34~b63; f36~b65; f38~b60. Subtracting the number of similar pieces of news from the total, we found 85 pieces on drugs.

After selecting these pieces of news, we decided, for convenience, to use only these two fact-checking portals. At this moment, all the pieces of news were carefully read. The reading was guided by a data extraction instrument, which, in turn, was organized into: information on the checking article year of publication; the drug mentioned; outcomes of drug use; targets of false information; action/prevention strategies; classification of the news; and emphasized excerpts.

To expose the research data, categories were listed a posteriori and analyzed from the perspective of collective health, which comprises the supply and demand of drugs as inherent to the historical-social process and, therefore, from the social determination involving individuals, families and classes in their different possibilities of social reproduction (Santos; Soares, 2013SANTOS, V. E.; SOARES, C. B. O consumo de substâncias psicoativas na perspectiva da saúde coletiva: uma reflexão sobre valores sociais e fetichismo. Saúde & Transformação Social, Florianópolis, v. 4, n. 2, p. 38-54, 2013.; Soares, 2007SOARES, C. B. Consumo contemporâneo de drogas e juventude: a construção do objeto na perspectiva da saúde coletiva. 2007. Tese (Livre-Docência em Enfermagem) - Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2007.).

Results

The fact-checking articles accuse fake news of being: rumor; gossip; sham; false story; false information; false photo; prank; lie; myth; bullshit; and hoax. Some report more than one version of the same fake news. This shows the difficulty of dealing with a dynamic phenomenon, capable of adapting news to appear believable.

To classify fake news, journalists linked to these agencies show the content investigated, try to compare the original source with others, relying on official references and experts. Nonetheless, most pieces of news do not have an easy-to-check source. Apparently, in many cases, the source and means of communication that share false information are merged. In this case, the communication channel legitimizes the fact without source. Means of communication assumedly jocular (national and international) were often used as a source for fake news, for example, Blog Joselito Muller, G17, MTVV - Maconha Torna Você Violento (Marijuana Makes You Violent), Diário Pernambucano, Sacizento, Olé do Brasil, The Daily Currant, Jornal VDD, among others.

Graph 1 shows a peak of fake news on drugs in 2014 and a growth trend by 2018.

Graph 1
Number of fake news on drugs per year of publication

The year 2014 was full of remarkable events for Brazilians. In the field of drugs, Marijuana March of São Paulo brought together thousands of people (Marcha da maconha…, 2014MARCHA DA MACONHA passa pela av. Paulista e chega à Consolação. G1, São Paulo, 26 abr. 2014. Disponível em: <Disponível em: https://glo.bo/2qOenig >. Acesso em: 17 ago. 2019.
https://glo.bo/2qOenig...
), and Bill No. 7,187/2014 was discussed in the House of Representatives, proposing the regulation of control, planting, cultivation, harvesting, production, acquisition, storage, commercialization and distribution of marijuana and its derivatives. This context has generated public discussions and conflicts that may have influenced the production and proliferation of fake news.

Graph 2 quantifies drugs in the fake news selected, excluding those referring to the same fake news in both portals. It is noteworthy that not all of them specify the drug.

Graph 2
Drug citations per year

The most frequent drug, with 22 citations, is a licit substance: alcohol. The most cited illicit drugs were marijuana and cocaine, with 21 and 11 citations, respectively. The low amount of fake news on crack (5) and cigarette (3) is notable.

According to the fake news, a 9 new drugs would have arrived in the country, they are: Focus X (f10), Neurofos (f13), Docinho (f17, b26), Cloud 9 (f30, b44, b27), Manga Rosa (b41), Dofe (f25, b42), Strawberry Quick (b49, f34, b63), Burundanga (f4, b16), and Krokodyl (f24, b35). According to the checking portals themselves, some of these drugs actually exist (e.g., Krokodyl and Burundanga), but they are rare, and reports on them have untrue information, which concurs with data presented by the III Levantamento Nacional sobre o Uso de Drogas pela População Brasileira (3rd National Survey on Drug Use by the Brazilian Population) (Bastos, 2017BASTOS, F. I. P. M. et al. (Org.). III levantamento nacional sobre o uso de drogas pela população brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz/ICICT, 2017.).

The negative and alarmist tone is the most common. The most cited tragic outcome was death (f1, b15, f2, b2, f8, b3, f24, b34, f25, b41, f27, f31, b40, b53). They also mentioned other negative outcomes, such as: robbery (f4, b16, b36); become a zombie (f30, b44); cancer (f23, b48); prostitution (f2, b2); sexually transmitted infections (f2, b2, b23); and cannibalism (b27).

In a smaller amount, some fake news reported “positive” outcomes for drug users, such as: slots in public service (b18); “crack assistance” (b51, b57); increased intelligence (f10, f13); Ebola cure (f7, b14); benefits of consumption for pregnant women (f38, b59); and cure of cancer (b64).

Five debunked pieces of news address changes in public drug policies: b5 points out that marijuana planting could be released in 2014; according to b17, the marijuana legalization project was shelved in 2015; b30 says Dry Law will be repealed because it causes more traffic accidents; b61 states that a Brazilian presidency candidate defends drug decriminalization; finally, b47 news alleges that the law had become even stricter for anyone caught drunk-driving. These publications report disinformation, and some seem part of a conservative strategy to discredit politicians and governments.

Other pragmatic information could be tips for damage reduction, if they were true. For example, the fake news that teaches how to escape breathalyzer using vinegar (b32), or the one that presents a new pipe for drug use (b36), or the right to paid sick leave for those who have a hangover (b58). However, they present information in a tone of denunciation or irony.

The fact-checking agencies do not always point to social networks where fake news originated or became viral. The most cited social network is Facebook (40 times), followed by websites and blogs (22 times) and WhatsApp (21 times).

Some news report market strategies to attract new users, such as colors and flavors (f17, b25, b26, f31, f34, b63, b41, b49, b53) or new forms of drug administration (f25, b42, b23, b36). The various reports with warnings involving young people and children (f5, f16, f17, b26, f29, b33, f31, f34, b62, f37, f34, b63, b23, b45, b49, b53) seem to sustain a risk discourse against individuals and groups considered vulnerable.

Some fake news bring action proposal in the form of requests to the reader. In this sense, they suggest that the (false) message be shared on social networks (f1, b15, f2, b2, f4, b16, f25, b41, f29, b32, f31, f34, b62, b29, b36, b46, b47, b52, b63), that children and friends be warned and closely monitored (b15, b25, b35, b48) and that they all say no to drugs (f23, b23).

The greatest individual targets of fake news were politicians, artists, athletes and celebrities or their families. In this case, the intention clearly seems to be to harm the image of a public person. In a smaller amount, certain social groups were also targeted, such as same-sex couples and young people. For the agencies, those pieces of fake news often bring illustrations and captions that do not confirm their content. According to the checking articles, the accused ones would not only be victims of fake news, but “victims of the web.” After all, false publication is legitimized by uncritical sharing.

Unanimously, the checking agencies generally suggest that the reader be aware and get informed. It is noteworthy, however, that the checkings also have different interpretations. The comments accompanying the debunking of fake news, made in the E-farsas.com, propose abstinence and a vigilant and preventive action. By commenting the fake news in f17, this agency suggests that “it is never too much to keep an eye on the children.” In f30, it concludes: “DON’T USE DRUGS.” Boatos.org, on the other hand, seems to have a closer perspective on harm reduction, as seen in b16, when the agency states that “discussions on drug legalization in Brazil are still weak.” In b17, it defends that “more than a police problem, crack use in Brazil is a public health problem.” It recommends “don’t drink and drive” (b46) and reinforces that scotching fake news “is no excuse for you to exaggerate with alcohol” (b47). Finally, it notes that the reader does have to take care of the children, “but not to be so paranoid” (b52).

Ultimately, fake news were gathered in three speech units that proved central: satire on drugs with potential to deceive; drugged as a category of prosecution; and illicit drugs epidemic.

Almost half of fake news (47%) satirized with humor situations involving substance use. These pieces of news may mean no harm, but they may potentially deceive. Among them, 31.7% report individuals or social groups misconduct, explained by drug use. And 21.1% disclose information on illicit drugs with misleading content and/or false contexts, reproducing an idea of urgency, panic or epidemic.

Discussion

Based on what Löwy (2013LÖWY, M. As aventuras de Karl Marx contra o Barão de Münchhausen: marxismo e positivismo na sociologia do conhecimento. 10. ed. São Paulo: Cortez, 2013.) called “critical sociology of knowledge,” reason should refer to the ability to distinguish what is true to what is false. Post-truth deepens an irrationalism that denies the possibility of knowing the real, intensifying the subjectivist moment of the process of knowledge (Coutinho, 2010COUTINHO, C. N. O estruturalismo e a miséria da razão. São Paulo: Expressão Popular, 2010.) and opening various possibilities for personal beliefs to deny scientific knowledge.

This same movement is evident in currents of the so-called postmodern thought. Although the various authors who reclaim postmodern thought are not homogeneous, according to Netto (2010NETTO, J. P. Posfácio. In: COUTINHO, C. N. O estruturalismo e a miséria da razão. São Paulo: Expressão Popular , 2010.), some common elements allow to characterize this thought: acceptance of immediacy to knowing the reality, dissolving the distinction between appearance and essence; suppression of the difference between scientific and non-scientific knowledge; refusal of the category of totality; the privilege of symbolic dimension of reality, reducing it to pure discursivity.

The closeness between fake news, post-truth and postmodern thought may expand the analysis of the fake news phenomenon, revealing aspects that link it to changes in the field of sociology of knowledge and the material basis of late capitalism that sustain them. The truth, as Gramsci (2007GRAMSCI, A. Cadernos do cárcere. 3. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2007.) pointed out, is linked to certain hegemonic relationships, showing its strength and reality immediately in politics. Not by coincidence, this field strongly disseminates fake news as a fighting strategy, reducing it to a dispute of “narratives”, in which the relation with materiality is lost.

Beyond the political field, fake news greatly affects the academic-scientific field, questioning issues until recently consensual. In the field of drugs, fake news is amplified with distortions that stigmatize these substances and their users, as well as the war on drugs (Hari, 2018HARI, J. Na fissura: uma história do fracasso no combate às drogas. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018.).

The fake news identified in this research present distorted content, for example, on the effects of substances, cause-and-effect relationships and their direct association with crime.

Data from the World Drug Report indicate 35 million people worldwide suffer from some substance use disorder (UNODC, 2019UNODC - UNITED NATIONS OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME. World drug report 2019. Viena: United Nations, 2019.), and the problematic use is reiterated in social dynamics generated by a system that needs inequality (Arruda et al., 2017ARRUDA, M. S. B. et al. Crackland: beyond crack cocaine. Social Medicine, Nova York, v. 11, n. 1, p. 8-17, 2017.). Concludingly, according to Velho (2008VELHO, G. Individualismo e cultura: notas para uma antropologia da sociedade contemporânea. 8. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2008.), society accuses the drug addict, as an embodiment of a social stigma, for problems that society itself has generated and cannot or does not want to solve.

A total of 31.7% fake news appealed to the “drug addict” accusation category. Implicitly or explicitly, these individuals are pointed out as morally harmful, as they have deviant habits and customs. Drugged people were pictured as addicts and/or sick, composing a representation that mobilizes compassion and disesteem. According to Velho (2008VELHO, G. Individualismo e cultura: notas para uma antropologia da sociedade contemporânea. 8. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2008.), this is a moral accusation that contaminates the entire life of the accused, stigmatizing him definitively. In this case, the accusation has a political and totalizing dimension, because from the discourse on the need to control deviations and addicts, a discourse on normality is constructed (Alvarez; Fraga; Campos, 2017ALVAREZ, M. C.; FRAGA, P. C. P.; CAMPOS, M. S. Apresentação: perspectivas atuais sobre políticas, produção, comércio e uso de drogas. Tempo Social, São Paulo, v. 29, n. 2, p. 1-14, 2017.).

More than 20% fake news identified by the research shared information on illicit drugs with misleading content and/or false contexts, reproducing an idea of urgency, panic or epidemic.

The idea of a drug epidemic in Brazil arises in the face of available studies that can support the analysis of reality. The survey carried out by Bastos et al. (2017BASTOS, F. I. P. M. et al. (Org.). III levantamento nacional sobre o uso de drogas pela população brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz/ICICT, 2017.), published in 2019, is emphasized, as it reveals the overview of licit and illicit drug uses in Brazil. According to it, the country has no epidemic of drug use.

The false drug epidemic aims to create the idea of a modern crisis, justifying exceptional actions. For Mészáros (2009MÉSZÁROS, I. A crise estrutural do capital. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2009.), crisis is the new way of governing. The constant disturbances, which take the form of terror and apocalyptic catastrophes, serve to break ties and control the population, maintaining a chronic existential insecurity. Therefore, the drug epidemic discourse distracts the population and, at the same time, is a reason for authoritarian interventions.

The war on drugs, present in perspectives that point to abstinence as the only possibility for health policies, is justified by the argument of this (false) epidemic. Contradictorily, such war is not exactly against illicit drugs, but as any other wars, it is against people. Current scientific evidence indicates that the war on drugs is failing (Godlee, 2016GODLEE, F. The war on drugs has failed: doctors should lead calls for drug policy reform. BMJ, Chicago, v. 355, n. 6067, 2016., 2017GODLEE, F. Treat addictions with evidence, not ideology. BMJ, Chicago, v. 357, n. 1925, 2017.).

In another sense, the movement to reduce damage opposes to the logic of the war on drugs (Moreira et al., 2019MOREIRA, C. R. et al. Redução de danos: tendências em disputa nas políticas de saúde. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem, Brasília, DF, v. 72, p. 326-335, 2019. Suplemento 3.), incorporating social struggles in order to instrumentalize users and professionals to understand the roots of the problem, reinforcing the protagonism to build appropriate policies to reality, which respond to the drug users’ needs (Santos; Soares, 2013SANTOS, V. E.; SOARES, C. B. O consumo de substâncias psicoativas na perspectiva da saúde coletiva: uma reflexão sobre valores sociais e fetichismo. Saúde & Transformação Social, Florianópolis, v. 4, n. 2, p. 38-54, 2013.).

For Zarzalejos (2017ZARZALEJOS, J. A. Comunicação, jornalismo e ‘fact-checking’. Revista UNO, São Paulo, v. 27, p. 11-13, 2017.), disseminating fake news leads to the trivialization of the truth, endangering the means of communication value or credibility, and then made inferior in the face of personal opinions.

However, at least in theory, this form that ridicules everyday life could illuminate social inequalities and injustices, bringing problematizations and reflections on topicality to compose health communication strategies.

Indeed, health communication faces a great challenge in a society that values scientific relativism and the deconstruction of the idea of truth. Cavaca et al. (2018CAVACA, A. G. et al. ‘Valor-saúde’: critérios epidemiológicos potenciais para a comunicação e saúde. Reciis, Rio de Janeiro, v. 12, n. 1, p. 26-42, 2018.) describe potential priorities for health communication, based on the so-called “health value”, with epidemiological criteria, and not just on the “news value”. Henriques (2018HENRIQUES, C. M. P. A dupla epidemia: febre amarela e desinformação. Reciis, Rio de Janeiro, v. 12, n. 1, p. 9-13, 2018.) points out the need to offer and disseminate reliable sources to professionals and the community, especially by strengthening institutions and their areas of communication.

These are important claims to strengthen drug health policies, but they seem insufficient to democratize communication in the context of a prohibitionist society. After all, communication is not one-way, but a right vocalized by popular sectors and other segments of society committed or not to health based on scientific evidence.

Final considerations

Faced with the media and science loss of credibility, it is urgent to offer and disseminate reliable evidence and sources to professionals and to the community.

Fact-checking sites play a very important role in debunking fake news. However, they will not deconstruct drug stigmas alone, which have in their own genesis disinformation and facts distortion. Thus, fake news on drugs, especially paired with negative bias, tends to be perceived as truth.

Collaborative strategies that unite the strengthening of public institutions of health research, democratization of communication, and harm reduction could extend the reach of actions and research that respond to social health needs.

As a problematization background on the fake news phenomenon, it is important to question conceptions defending the impossibility to understand the real, making room for academic-scientific knowledge to be equated to personal convictions, reinforcing subjectivism and irrationalism that tend to strengthen the reception and proliferation of fake news in the most varied fields of knowledge.

The reflections developed here are expected to inspire the creation and modification of communicative strategies to illuminate social needs, inequalities and injustices, generating problematizations and reflections in topicality.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    30 Apr 2020
  • Date of issue
    2020

History

  • Received
    23 Aug 2019
  • Accepted
    22 Nov 2019
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