September 16th, 2009

News Flash: The Internet Cannot Replace an Actual Human

Interested in researching the cause of AIDS?  Well go ahead and give NetBase Solutions’ healthBase a try, but don’t expect much in the way of filtering:

One of the most unfortunate examples is when you type in a search for “AIDS,” one of the listed causes of the disease is “Jew.” Really. The ridiculousness continues. When you click on Jew, you can see proper “Treatments” for Jews, “Drugs And Medications” for Jews and “Complications” for Jews. Apparently, “alcohol” and “coarse salt” are treatments to get rid of Jews, as is Dr. Pepper!

To be fair, the site seems to have cleaned up its act quite a bit since this report — here’s an example of a search I just did.  Most of the results are now much more plausible, but there’s still some wacky stuff there.  HIV is the number two cause of AIDS (number two?), and number five is “Abbott” — and I don’t they’re referring to the guy up there in the baseball uniform.

Look, I’m all for using the internet for medical information, and acknowledge I can barely function without it these days.  But this kind of advanced search engine takes lots and lots of human oversight, and for now the swarm of medical data out there in web-land can be as misleading as it is vast.

(Hat tip to Graeme M for the link.)

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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

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Infectious Diseases

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