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YouTube is a source of misinformation on plastic surgery

Researchers conducted the first study that evaluates videos on facial plastic surgery

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In a new study done by Rutgers University, researchers evaluated YouTube selection of facial plastic surgery videos. The study shows that not only are most of the videos misleading to the public, but many are nothing more than marketing attempts posted by individuals not in the medical field.

Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers Medical School’s department of otolaryngology who specializes in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, was the lead author of the study, and worked with a team of medical students to evaluate over 240 YouTube videos. The videos had a combined 160 million views and were found after searching keywords including “ear surgery,” “rhinoplasty,” “nose job,” “lip fillers,” “dermal fillers,” “face fillers,” “face lift,” “lip augmentation,” and “blepharoplasty.”

Paskhover emphasized that millions of people turn to YouTube for answers, but consumers should be warned that the site does not include the potential risk factors or alternative options to surgery.

“Videos on facial plastic surgery may be mainly marketing campaigns and may not fully be intended as educational,” Paskhover said.

The study

When evaluating the videos, the researchers used DISCERN criteria, which is “a valid and reliable way of assessing the quality of written information on treatment choices for a health problem.” The criteria includes a discussion of non-surgical options, risks, and the validity of the information that’s presented. Additionally, the researchers noted if the people posting the videos were healthcare professionals or third parties.

The results showed that the majority of videos did not include qualified professionals who were explaining the procedure. In 94 of the videos evaluated, no medical professional was present at all. Contrastly, 72 videos included board-certified surgeons, provided valuable information, and came out with high DISCERN scores.

“However, even videos posted by legitimate board-certified surgeons may be marketing tools made to look like educational videos,” Paskhover said.

“Patients and physicians who use YouTube for educational purposes should be aware that these videos can present biased information, be unbalanced when evaluating risks versus benefits, and be unclear about the qualifications of the practitioner,” Paskhover continued. “YouTube is for marketing. The majority of the people who post these videos are trying to sell you something.”

YouTube’s plan to fight misinformation

Last month, YouTube rolled out a new plan to prevent users from uploading and spreading false information in times of crisis. The initiative was designed to help the public get accurate information.

The platform found that it would often become inundated with videos -- many of which were full of misinformation -- following an intense or explosive news cycle. Many people were just looking for the news, but the videos left them confused and misinformed.

“We’re making changes to put more authoritative content in front of people,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer.

With the changes, YouTube’s recommendation engine has been altered to show news-related videos from reputable outlets to appear first.

“It’s very easy to quickly produce and upload low-quality videos spreading misinformation around a developing news event,” Mohan said.

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