a masterclass on faking cancer in the modern age. She fooled Apple, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Penguin. She fooled the hundreds of thousands who bought her app, read her blog and believed that her story could be their story.ow would you fake cancer? Shave your head? Pluck your eyebrows? Install a chemo port into your neck? These days you don’t need to. Belle Gibson’s story is
Diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 20, Gibson had four months to live. She blogged her journey of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, treatments she shunned after eight weeks. Instead, she cut gluten and dairy and turned to oxygen therapy, craniosacral treatments and colonic irrigation. Against all odds, she made it. Her followers were inspired. If Belle could make it, maybe they could too.
Gibson launched The Whole Pantry app in 2013, filled with healthy living tips and recipes. She promised a third of proceeds from the 300,000 downloads ($3.79 per download) to charity. Elle named her “The Most Inspiring Woman You’ve Met This Year”, Cosmopolitan awarded her a “Fun, Fearless Female award” and Penguin published her cookbook. Apple pre-installed her app on Apple Watch and flew her to its Silicon Valley launch.
Then cancer re-emerged, and Gibson announced on Instagram: “It hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and forth [sic] cancer. One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting.”
Popular Science kills comments – while YouTube tries to fix them
Website says comments harm debate, while YouTube begins integration with Google+ to bring friends and ‘popular personalities’ to greater visibility – and hide random remarks
Popular Science is closing comments on its articles. Citing “trolls and spambots”, the 141-year-old American magazine has decided that an open forum at the bottom of articles “can be bad for science”.
The decision was “not made lightly” said online content director Suzanne LaBarre – nor, appropriately, without some supporting scientific evidence. Citing research from a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, the magazine argues that exposure to bad comments can skew a reader’s opinion of the post itself.
“Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought,” Brossard wrote in the New York Times.
“If you carry out those results to their logical end,” says LaBarre, “commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded – you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the “off” switch.”
If Popular Science’s commenters were in proportion to that on most other large sites, they made up about 1% of those who read the piece. (The Guardian’s commenters are about 0.7% of readers on average, according to a statistic calculated by Martin Belam from public figures, with a very small number of commenters generating a large proportion – 20% in Belam’s calculation – of input.) There’s no data on how many people read comments on news sites, though