CBD gummy scam illustrates need for media literacy

by David Suzuki

CBD gummy scam illustrates need for media literacy

David Suzuki  October 12, 2021 at 6:35 pm

recent online memes, stories and other disinformation have David Suzuki not only selling and endorsing CBD gummies but also embroiled in a lawsuit with businessman Kevin O’Leary over them! (Photo: Elsa Olofsson via Flickr)

Would you buy cannabis gummies from me? Apparently, hundreds of people would. Only trouble is, I don’t sell them, and I’m not looking for business opportunities. But recent online memes, stories and other disinformation have me not only selling and endorsing CBD gummies but also embroiled in a lawsuit with businessman Kevin O’Leary over them!

People see the bogus information, click through to a realistic product page, submit their personal and financial information and order the products. It appears they most often find the pitches on Facebook.

I’m saddened that anyone would spend money hoping to purchase products they thought I manufactured or recommended. The scam is still tricking innocent people. They contact the David Suzuki Foundation daily.

This got me reflecting on how and where people receive and process information. I’ve been a science communicator for more than half a century, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to get through to people. How do we ensure as many as possible have access to accurate, credible information so we can make informed decisions on issues that matter?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked many years at the CBC. As a public broadcaster, it’s been producing quality content and upholding journalistic standards since before the Second World War — and helped me earn credibility as a communicator.

False information and scams abound, along with the worst political polarization in recent memory.

Today, I compare that type of relationship — one based on accurate and fair communication of relatively diverse types of evidence and viewpoints — to what I see online, on social media, and it’s shocking. False information and scams abound, along with the worst political polarization in recent memory.

Fraud and misinformation have been around as long as we have, and perpetrators have always seized on the best available technologies to reach people. But in under 30 years, the internet has become our main information source, and the ubiquity of social media has given rise to effective, inexpensive ways to spread information, from bad to good and everything in between.

Close to 60 per cent of the world’s population — 4.66 billion people — are active internet users, most accessing it through mobile devices. It infiltrates and informs every aspect of our lives.

As Marshall McLuhan posited in the 1960s, our technologies have become extensions of ourselves.

As these systems evolve and become more powerful, complex and efficient, so too must our collective ability to understand and use them.

As we receive more information online — from recipes to weather forecasts, product info to politics — how can we make sure it’s reliable, that we can trust it enough to make good decisions? If we’re wrong, what’s at stake? Many people search for or are fed information that confirms their beliefs rather than that which could help them better understand an issue. And, as recent vaccine opposition reveals, much of it promotes “personal freedom” while ignoring the responsibility that goes with it.

In today’s digital society, media literacy levels must match the sophistication of mass communication methods and big tech. But this isn’t the case, and we’re seeing the consequences, from increasing polarization to revelations about how platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp foment division and conflict in the name of profit.

In 2021, a dwindling minority still reject the validity of climate science, despite an astounding amount of evidence proving the crisis is upon us and massive international scientific consensus regarding the urgent and necessary path forward.

Environmentalists encounter the misinformation problem often. In 2021, a dwindling minority still reject the validity of climate science, despite an astounding amount of evidence proving the crisis is upon us and massive international scientific consensus regarding the urgent and necessary path forward.

How can we come together, have informed conversations and enjoy the benefits of evidence-based decision-making? It’s clearer than ever that a democracy works best when people have access to accurate, credible information.

We must see our information systems — news media, social media, etc. — as the foundations of democracy they are, and we must insist on keeping them, and the people who use them, healthy.

We should invest more public resources in ensuring our media industry is healthy, social media is properly regulated and most people are media literate enough to consume online information safely and responsibly. And we must take responsibility and get better at synthesizing information, considering various perspectives and uniting behind solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

It all begins with productive, respectful conversations based on good information. (And maybe some CBD — but not from me!)

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David Suzuki

David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. David is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

Education

As a geneticist. David graduated from Amherst College (Massachusetts) in 1958 with an Honours BA in Biology, followed by a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He held a research associateship in the Biology Division of Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Lab (1961 – 62), was an Assistant Professor in Genetics at the University of Alberta (1962 – 63), and since then has been a faculty member of the University of British Columbia. He is now Professor Emeritus at UBC.

Awards

In 1972, he was awarded the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for the outstanding research scientist in Canada under the age of 35 and held it for three years. He has won numerous academic awards and holds 25 honourary degrees in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Dr. Suzuki has written 52 books, including 19 for children. His 1976 textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis(with A.J.F. Griffiths), remains the most widely used genetics text book in the U.S.and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Indonesian, Arabic, French and German.

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