The BBC has appointed Rachel Schraer to the position of Health Disinformation Reporter, in the first role of its kind at the organisation. Over the past 18 months, Schraer has focussed on identifying and debunking misleading information about Covid-19, and will continue in this capacity as well as investigating misinformation about wider health topics.
“I’m privileged to take on this important brief at a time when bad information is playing such a big role in people’s health and wellbeing,” said Schraer. “Most people just want to make the right decisions for their health, but it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information out there – especially when some of the people spreading it are motivated by a particular ideological or financial agenda.”
In what is a global position, Schraer will be looking into disinformation as it affects people across countries and languages. It comes at a time when the BBC’s World Service has achieved record reach, with the international arm of the company growing 42% from 246 million people on average each week in March 2016 to 351 million people in March 2020.
During the Covid pandemic, the reporter exposed and explained claims about the vaccine and fertility that were scaring young women, as well as debunking the idea that vitamin D is a miracle covid cure, and revealing the flaws and signs of potential fraud in the evidence used to support ivermectin to prevent or treat covid.
Her work will compliment that already being undertaken by Marianna Spring, the BBC’s specialist reporter covering disinformation and social media. Schraer’s focus will be on health debunking, fake cures, bad advice and misleading evidence around the world.
In tweeting about the new role, the reporter added that it would “hopefully help you through the thicket of weaponised stats, charts and scientific papers that get chucked out there to confuse, by people who want to push an agenda, gain influence or even make money.”