It seems like there is some sort of misinformation floating around everywhere you look these days.
Last we saw it around the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the 2020 US presidential election and 5G.
But there are other types of misinformation that are potentially more dangerous and potentially deadly.
We’ve all seen viral cooking and food hacks explode on social media — they’re fast, bright, and usually have an upbeat soundtrack.
As fun as it may be to watch, food scientist, YouTuber and author Ann Reardon proves you can’t believe everything you see.
A love of food
Ann Reardon is a qualified nutritionist, nutritionist, and mother who has found unexpected fame youtube.
“Food itself is fascinating,” says Reardon True life podcast.
“But once you dive into the science, there’s just so much… I mean, cooking is essentially a mini science experiment.
“You mix different ingredients and heat them up and see what the result will be – and small changes can make a big difference!”
Her journey started right out of high school.
“I studied nutrition and food science at university and then did a postgraduate course in dietetics to become a nutritionist.”
Ann was a community nutritionist, consulted with food companies and worked with young people before she started having children.
Then motherhood intervened and she looked for a new project.
“I got into YouTube quite by accident…when I was pregnant with my third son I knew I had a year off (with) maternity leave and I love love love little babies but changing nappies and feeding them.” and all of that stuff really didn’t take up much of my mental space, and I knew that from previous kids.
“So I was like, ‘I’m going to start a website which I can work on during the nightly feeds and basically just type with one hand and do all those things’, so I’d only be posting to the site once a week.
“I blog posts every week and only occasionally make videos when I feel like a video could explain it better, especially cake decorating stuff, showing is a lot easier than making.
“Back then, there were almost no videos on YouTube about cake decorations.
“10 years ago there wasn’t a YouTuber, nobody knew you could make money on YouTube – you couldn’t just upload something and start making money.
“So I started uploading weekly videos that were off maternity leave towards the end of the year and we could see the videos were doing really well.
“YouTube sent me an email asking, ‘Do you want to monetize your videos?’ and I had ignored it because I didn’t think it would make any money
“I ended up filling out the form just to stop them from emailing me, and then I realized this could become my part-time job and I could stay at home, which is what I wanted to do.”
atmosphere of disinformation
But Ann has noticed a change in the types of videos being posted on YouTube.
“When I started back then, everyone was posting videos to help people… You would never imagine posting a video that you knew was wrong.”
But monetizing videos has led to what she calls “content farms” to emerge, posting outrageous food and craft hacks that look good but are impossible at best and deadly at worst.
“There’s a difference between misinformation and disinformation — and one of them is intentional.”
“If I put up a recipe and explain how something works but I don’t really know, and the person has no background in food and so thinks it works, that would be misinformation.
“But if you know what you’re saying is wrong, like some videos say, ‘Mix ice cream and powdered sugar together and you get this nice, thick whipped cream’ — that’s physically impossible, you can’t have that.” she made.
“They ended up swapping it out for a different glaze — that’s disinformation because they know it’s not true, but they’re doing it for financial reasons and to get views.”
We’ve all heard of puppy farms, places that continually breed dogs with no regard for the health or happiness of the animals in order to produce and sell as many puppies as possible.
The digital equivalent are content farms, content creators who spend viral hack videos with no regard for security or authenticity, for clicks and money.
“So in a content farm you have 50 or 60 stations all shooting videos at the same time and just putting out hundreds of videos a month just to get the algorithm to get tons of views.”
“They’re well produced, so they look like they have to be real, and a lot of people have this misconception of ‘why would anyone fake that?'”
But the trend is picking up.
“More people are copying this trend now, so some of them aren’t content farms, some of them are just regular creators.
“Normal creators are now doing the same thing, creating fake content, making it look like it’s a real recipe, and the result isn’t possible from what they say or do.
“Some of them can be dangerous, others waste a lot of ingredients.”
“The other thing they’re not sure about is, ‘Well, if it’s fake, why wouldn’t YouTube or Facebook remove it? If it’s a fake, they certainly wouldn’t let it stand.’
In response to Ann’s claims, YouTube says hers Community Guidelines prohibit content intended to promote dangerous activities that carry an inherent risk of physical harm. According to YouTube, they use a combination of technology and people to enforce these policies.
A recipe for disaster
While many of the fake recipes and hacks are fairly harmless, others can be extremely dangerous.
In incidenceone girl was killed and another injured in China.
“They followed[a hack video]where they made a popcorn popper out of a coke can, and you could certainly do that, but it can also go very wrong if you don’t know the basics of using flammable liquids. “
“It’s presented in a way that makes it look like a child could do it, and it doesn’t contain any of the warnings.”
“One of the content farms, I saw an interview with one of their guys and they said they were going to do something with the burner and set up almost the whole studio and fire but they had a fire extinguisher in there so they put it out.”
“None of the (videos) say you have to have a fire extinguisher nearby, so they took safety precautions, but the audience doesn’t even get the warning.”
With her how to cook this Channel, Ann tries these viral recipes and hacks to demonstrate why they don’t work.
“I can look at the video and say, ‘I can’t do that,’ and I know why I can’t.
“It’s more about knowing what’s going to happen, but still doing it so you can actually demonstrate it to people, because once they’ve seen it incorrectly work in a video, they need to see what’s really happening , to be able to do it somehow re-educate your mind.”
In addition to debunking viral hacks and saving cakes, Ann worked hard to write her first cookbook. Crazy cute creationsreleased last year.
“After 10 years, it took me a while to get into it.
“It did amazingly well, much better than I expected… a bestseller in the UK, in the US… very, very exciting.”
“It has a lot of desserts and they actually work!
“They have been tested by several people to make sure everything is great and you will get the result that you should get in the end.”