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Cannabis Health Claims from Social Bots on Twitter can be Misleading

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While many are touting medical cannabis as a wonder drug for all it can do, some are still concerned with how it’s being portrayed  online, especially on social media sites like Twitter. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at how cannabis is discussed on Twitter.

According to Patch, the study was meant to look at different ways that data from social media is used to inform public health policy. The researchers looked at both how Twitter AI bots discuss cannabis and how real people talk about it.

“In our recent study, my colleagues and I wanted to describe topics of conversations pertaining to cannabis use,” the researchers explained about the study. “We also wanted to determine whether social bots were taking part in this conversation.”

Different posts that the study found were generated by social bots and made claims suggesting that cannabis could help with cancer, foot pain and Crohn’s disease, among other conditions. This has the researchers concerned, as such claims aren’t yet backed up with the proper science.

“Misleading messages are now pervasive online, and it is important for the public to understand the difference between a demonstrated, scientifically backed piece of health information and claims that are simply made up,” the researchers explain. “[. . .]Findings like ours underscore the need for health education campaigns designed to correct misconceptions about the health benefits of cannabis use. Policies may also need to be implemented to identify and tag false health claims on social media platforms.”

As medical cannabis becomes more and more accepted even in conservative states and on a global level, even more will be learned about how it can heal. However, as this study cautions, it’s important to be careful about spreading misinformation.