People from UBC Developed a New Tool for Screening Online Health Ads for Deception


Everywhere you look on the internet you see ads. Today we’re going to talk about those talking about health, from arthritis cures to weight-loss solutions and how reliable are them. Their actual benefit can often be too difficult to find out. Until now, that is, because people from the University of British Columbia devised a simple tool for screening the products which pop up as you browse the web.

Dubbed the Risk of Deception Tool, this little program works by assigning certain points to the ads, based on the number of persuasion techniques and their type. When an ad uses a celebrity, it gets one point, while pseudo-technical language will get it another. Mystical language or claiming that the product is in short supply and really hard to come by are guaranteed ways of getting points.

As you may have figured out already, the more points an ad has, the higher the probability that it is, in fact, a scam. The people involved are all from UBC, particularly two doctors, two nurses, a social worker, a pharmacist and two physiotherapists. Bernie Garrett, an associate professor in the school of nursing stated that “we were exploring internet health ads and found, not surprisingly, that the internet provided a massive market for people to promote, in some cases, completely deceptive products that are not based on any scientific evidence”.

There were 112 different health concerns targeted ads which were analyzed and it led to some evident scams. The most common deceptive advertisements involved bodybuilding and weight loss promotion, which were closely followed by medicinal products claiming to treat asthma, pain or other afflictions and the third spot was occupied by lifestyle products such as sexual enhancement remedies or anti-aging stuff.


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