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Twitter, X, whatever you know it as, introduced a means of correcting misleading posts and harm reduction advocates are now making full use of it

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Twitter, X, whatever you know it as, introduced a means of correcting misleading posts and harm reduction advocates are now making full use of it. The Community Notes feature is having such a profound impact that even national newspapers are reporting when large organisations like the World Health Organization are being publicly corrected and humiliated.

Twitter/X says: “Community Notes aim to create a better informed world by empowering people on X to collaboratively add context to potentially misleading posts. Contributors can leave notes on any post and if enough contributors from different points of view rate that note as helpful, the note will be publicly shown on a post.”

In April, the World Health Organization’s main account posted to the social media site claiming that vaping increases the risk of seizures. A number of outlandish posts had been made on various WHO accounts – and the @WHO_Europe one was actively blocking members of the public for pointing out errors.

The harm reduction community did what it does best, calmly laying out the evidence that puts pay to the WHO lies.

It’s not just companies.

Tahir Turk is a man claiming, “a career spanning over 35 years' experience in strategic behaviour change communication”. Of late, he has demonstrated boredom with life inspiring a desire to troll and an ignorance of science in equal measure on Twitter/X.

Who're you going to believe,” he asked to the ether, “industry sources out to make a quick buck from a new generation of nicotine addiction and multi-tobacco use harms or leading global health authorities who know how this miserable industry works? Odds of future smoking 3-6 times greater in young vapers.”

Clearly, insulting members of the public is a key technique when delivering strategic behaviour change communication.

The community responded: “Substantial research shows the opposite that vape users including youth have not gone on to use tobacco and vaping is a gateway out of smoking.” 

Sources listed as proving Turk the Troll wrong:

Fox News tried to claim a young vaper required double lung transplant as a result of his use of a vaping device.

The community point out:

Then there’s the moment Senator Matt Canavan noted the response to a tweet by the Australian Medical Association: “That's some community note. All the research proving doctors wrong! The current model requires people that want to vape to pay a doctor to do so. Surprise, surprise, doctors do not want to change this!”

For many years, organisations and individuals have got used to being able to lie to the public with no comeback but Twitter/X’s community notes has put paid to that. It’s possible that if anything forces a shift in the way public health bodies and individuals communicate with the public and treat evidence, this could be it.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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