Blogger Elena Kornilova a couple of years ago started talking on Instagram about hair care: deep cleaning shampoos, conditioners and keratin straightening. Now she has 263 thousand subscribers, and her recommendations have changed from relatively harmless to medical ones - Kornilova gives advice on the treatment of anemia, "hypothyroidism" (meaning hypothyroidism), herpesvirus infection and other conditions. In addition to strange diagnostic methods - for example, immediately after waking up to spit into a glass of boiled water to reveal a certain "Candida imbalance" - as a therapy, the author of the blog offers complex schemes for taking dietary supplements, for the purchase of which she gives readers promotional codes.
Kornilova talks about the possibility of personal consultations and about the “hair treatment studio” she opened; in a now deleted article on RBC, it was said that she graduated from the Technical University of Munich and Anhalt University, and is now working on her Ph.D. thesis at the National University of Singapore. The RAS Commission on Countering the Falsification of Scientific Research, in particular, Pyotr Talantov and Mikhail Gelfand, conducted an investigation - they contacted these universities and found out that Elena Kornilova (in all possible spellings of the name and surname) never studied there, and even at the University of Munich there is no separate course in organic chemistry.
In his Facebook post, Talents estimates the number of “potentially fatalities” from the recommendations of a false doctor at one hundred people. Her advice for pregnant women includes taking drugs that are dangerous to the fetus and can lead to complications of pregnancy; subscribers who complain in the comments about itching, rash, aches throughout the body while taking dietary supplements, she replies that this is a normal stage of "cleansing the body." The constructions of the present time are used here for a reason - neither Kornilov nor her representatives responded to numerous exposing publications, and the blogger continues to pretend to be a doctor.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to say how many fraudulent “doctors” are on social networks and how many people have suffered from their advice. On the one hand, we spend half our lives on the Internet, communicate with colleagues and loved ones, get to know each other and make friends. On the other hand, the risk that we were warned about, even when the Internet was called the World Wide Web, has not gone anywhere: the person on the other side of the screen may not be at all who he claims to be. Feedback is easy to interrupt, an account can be deleted or blocked, and unscrupulous people can only benefit from it.
Mikhail Gelfand in his commentary for Takie Delo notes that in this case it was relatively easy to expose the fraudster precisely because of the forged diplomas: "It is more dangerous when a person has a real diploma, but he still writes nonsense." A couple of months ago, there was a lot of talk about a pediatrician who gave fake vaccinations and did not send blood samples taken for analysis. In February, the investigative committee began verifying the authenticity of Yevgeny Likunov's license; the results have not yet been reported. It is possible that he still has a doctor's diploma, as well as the ability to work with social networks: many doctors noted that they responded to his friend request after seeing several dozen common friends.
One may wonder why
that someone trusts doctors
from Instagram, but people are not to blame for trusting those who from the very beginning built their earnings on deception
The Internet helps spread true information - but it also convincingly serves false information. We've seen how antiscientific advocates grow their audience: they preach using science-based phrases, beautiful terms or conspiracy theories ("pharmaceutical corporations experiment on humanity to cash in"), they play on emotions and offer simple, safe and painless solutions. It would seem that this should not be harmful, even if it does not bring an effect - but dietary supplements, especially in high dosages, are unsafe, refusing treatment or postponing it can cost lives, and the possible consequences of home birth with the support of a doula via Skype is scary even to imagine …If the contact with the “health worker” who gives the recommendations exists only online - it is worth thinking once again, because if something goes wrong, there will be no one to make a complaint.
How to deal with this without going to extremes like banning medical blogs (and the entire Internet) is not very clear. It may be surprising that someone trusts doctors from Instagram, but people are not to blame for trusting those who from the very beginning built their earnings on deception. The outlook, the ability to filter information and trust in online (or offline) sources are different for everyone - many still have confidence that "they will not write stupidity in the newspaper." In theory, the more patients are aware of evidence-based treatments, the more doubts the next naturopath will be. Yet the responsibility for harmful and dangerous advice lies with the giver, not the recipient.
The problem is not limited to Russia or Russian-speaking social networks - the dangers of pseudoscience are spoken all over the world, and it is not for nothing that WHO calls the refusal of vaccinations one of the threats to humanity. In Spain, in September 2018, more than four hundred doctors and scientists signed a petition to combat pseudoscience. The trigger was the death of a patient with leukemia, who refused standard therapy and, on the recommendation of a "healer", tried to be treated with vitamins. Now the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education, together with the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare, has launched the #coNprueba project (“With evidence”). On the website, you can consult about the evidence base for certain methods of treatment, and a project with social advertising has also been launched - at bus stops you can see posters with the text "To recover, you need something more than water with sugar." Scientists in India are also concerned about the fight against pseudoscience: when the Indian Institute of Science planned a master class in astrology in 2017, mass protests began.
In an attempt to understand the issues of science, pseudoscience, truth and post-truth, scientists note that it is important not to confuse the obvious with the evidence (evident and evidence-based): what seems obvious to us may not be based on facts and statistics, but on beliefs or personal opinion. Of course, some methods with unproven effectiveness can work, and their effectiveness has not been proven only temporarily - but good practice in clinical trials has nothing to do with the statement "the pharmaceutical industry is deceiving you, and only I know the truth."