In October, BuzzFeed News reported that there were groups flourishing on Facebook in which numerous members openly praised the unsubstantiated power of black salve on cancerous cells. At the time, Facebook stated that the groups, in spite of the dangerous claims they were making, did not violate the company’s community guidelines. Presumably, it was sticking to Mark Zuckerberg’s lopsided defense of free speech.
On Tuesday, however, Facebook changed its position and banned two major black salve cancer-cure groups — one with a whopping 21,000 members and another with around 12,000 — from the platform, according to BuzzFeed News. Although the social network has a specific rule against exaggerated health claims, Facebook stated that these two groups actually violated its “Violent and Criminal Behavior” guideline.
Flesh-corroding black salve — Consisting of bloodroot and chloride, black salve is an extremely corrosive paste. Its misguided proponents believe that the paste, once applied to a patient with skin cancer, can eat away at the cancerous cells and thereby cure the individual.
But medical experts strongly reject this claim and warn that black salve's extreme properties are indiscriminate in what they attack. It will destroy a cancer patient's healthy and unhealthy tissue alike, causing tissue death. In fact, the paste is so dangerous that the FDA has banned it from being distributed in America.
Dangerous advice runs rampant — When it comes to bogus “cures” and “medical miracles”, Facebook has a definitive quack issue. It’s not just black salve being pushed as a cancer cure; private groups have also urged parents to make their children drink bleach to “cure” autism. In other cases, they’ve promoted anti-vaccination posts. The company has been appallingly slow in tackling these groups, especially considering the urgency of the issue.
With these two major black salve groups banned, BuzzFeed News noted that users were migrating to other networks. But the problem on Facebook remains. Users can easily exploit invite-only private groups where moderators frequently fall short on removing medically unproven claims. In July, the company stated that it would improve its News Feed algorithm to fix bogus health claims but that clearly has failed to tackle rogue medical clinics on its platform.