Welcome to the first edition of the Health Misinformation Monitor, a key component of KFF’s Misinformation and Trust Initiative which is aimed at tracking health misinformation in the U.S, analyzing its impact on the American people, and mobilizing media to address the problem. The Monitor will provide everyone working on health misinformation and trust with a short report, every two weeks, summarizing the latest developments and research on health misinformation. Of course it’s free of charge, as is all KFF information. We will track health misinformation policy, news, online narratives, and public opinion on health misinformation and trust in the United States. Look for our report on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.


This first edition of the Health Misinformation Monitor explores misinformation about raw milk amid bird flu outbreaks on dairy farms, false vaccine narratives that continue to spread, and legal challenges against abortion pill reversal claims. Additionally, a growing number of states have required public schools to show fetal development videos that some have called biased and inaccurate. This Monitor report also provides a snapshot of new KFF misinformation polling on TikTok and discusses the early challenges faced by The World Health Organization’s new AI tool SARAH in providing accurate answers to health questions.

Recent Developments

Social Media Influencers Promoted Raw Milk as Bird Flu is Found on Dairy Farms

Social media influencers have been promoting raw milk despite FDA warnings about its health risks as bird flu has appeared in dairy cows. One report from CBS News shows how these influencers and celebrities make claims that raw milk has more health benefits than pasteurized milk, which has been refuted by public health officials. In response to growing demand for raw milk and some outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu on dairy farms, the FDA and CDC have strengthened their warnings that raw milk can harbor dangerous germs and urging people to consume only pasteurized products

Addressing Vaccine Misinformation Amid Measles and Continuing COVID-19 Challenges

Measles cases in the United States have significantly increased in 2024, with unvaccinated individuals accounting for 80% of this year’s cases. KFF Health News reported on how misinformation from various public figures has influenced parents to avoid vaccinating their children. Vaccine misinformation has downplayed the severity of diseases and questioned the necessity and safety of vaccines, despite extensive scientific evidence establishing their efficacy and safety. Skeptics’ claims, including those that vaccines are unnecessary or harmful, contradict well-documented research and have led to dangerous public health consequences.

New COVID-19 variants, known as FLiRT, part of the omicron family, have emerged as the dominant strain in the U.S. In one recent example of an effort to address vaccine misinformation, the Kentucky Lantern consulted with the CDC, the FDA, and other sources to debunk several false or misleading claims made by some lawmakers that the vaccine leads to serious health issues like sudden cardiac events and miscarriages. Their story shared information from the CDC and FDA that emphasized that vaccines are safe and effective.

Legal Challenges Against Abortion Pill Reversal Claims

According to CBS, Heartbeat International, along with other anti-abortion groups, is being sued by New York and California attorneys general for alleged false advertising and fraud by promoting “abortion pill reversal” as a safe and effective method to halt medical abortions. Heartbeat International is countersuing, citing First Amendment rights and asserting the safety and efficacy of abortion pill reversal.

Emerging Misinformation Narratives

Potentially Misleading Fetal Development Video, Baby Olivia, Mandated in Several Public-School Curricula

A growing number of states have passed or are considering bills that require public schools to show “Baby Olivia,” a video on fetal development made by the anti-abortion group Live Action. According to The Guardian, at least 10 states have introduced bills this year requiring “Baby Olivia”, or a similar video, following North Dakota’s lead last year. Live Action claims that the video is scientifically credible, but, according to the Associated Press, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned in an email that the video spreads misinformation and manipulates viewers’ emotions rather than providing evidence-based, scientific information. The Guardian also noted that the medical experts mentioned by Live Action are part of alleged anti-abortion or anti-LGBTQ+ groups.

The “Baby Olivia” video appeared online in August 2021 when the group Live Action published a three-minute video about fetal development titled, “A Never Before Seen Look at Human Life in the Womb – Baby Olivia”, on its website. Live Action then shared the video on Facebook. Nearly all of the 298 comments on the initial post were in support of the video, and some promoted false claims about abortion such as, “Mom’s don’t realize their babies are butchered and sold for body parts”

Conversations about the Baby Olivia video have been driven by the group’s own social media posts—primarily on Facebook. Since 2021, Live Action has reshared the video on Facebook during upticks in local and national conversation about abortion—in November 2021, after Tennessee upheld its 48-hour abortion waiting period (149 comments); in June 2022, when Roe v. Wade was overturned (4,700 comments); in November 2022, just after midterm elections (444 comments); and in March 2024, when Kentucky, West Virginia, and Iowa advanced bills that would require the Baby Olivia video to be shown in schools (87 comments).

The majority of comments on Live Action’s Facebook posts about the Baby Olivia video have expressed support for the video, but comments expressing concerns about the video spiked each time bills requiring the video to be shown in schools were introduced or passed. Still, the overall number of posts about the video was small in the context of the number of daily Facebook posts and overall media use in the U.S., reaching a high of 4,700. Additional social media engagement and general news media coverage may have created a larger echo chamber for the video.

Social media users commenting on Live Action’s Facebook posts debated whether or not an embryo is an “unborn baby” and whether or not abortion is murder. Some social media users applauded the video for what they believed to be its accuracy with comments like, “Biology at its finest” and “Development happens so quickly. It’s amazing how much is going on so early in development.” Others acknowledged the video’s false claims with comments like, “That is not the right timeline give me a break.” Some supporters of the video wrote that Baby Olivia should be shown to people who are seeking abortions and that the video should be “mandatory viewing” in schools. As more states consider legislation related to the Baby Olivia video, further spikes in engagement and conversation may occur. What appears interesting, and a subject for ongoing research, however, is that the overall “noise” surrounding the Baby Olivia video appears to be much greater than the actual volume of conversation about it on social media which has been modest.

Health Discussions to Watch

Abortion Pill Regulation: In May, Louisiana legislators passed, and the governor signed, a bill that categorizes abortion pills (both mifepristone and misoprostol) as controlled dangerous substances, initiating online conversation about abortion pills across multiple social media platforms. A KFF Fact Sheet explains that Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000 and is already tightly regulated by the FDA and has not been classified by the FDA and Federal Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled substance at risk for addition or abuse. Misoprostol is commonly used for other gynecologic and obstetric procedures. As of May 28, the bill was mentioned 7,800 times on X and in news articles with 38,800 engagements (e.g., likes, comments, shares). This story was also mentioned 256 times on Facebook, where it garnered 19,000 engagements. Most social media posts about the bill expressed criticism.

Gender-Affirming Health Care: A recent viral social media post from psychologist and author Jordan Peterson falsely claimed that gender-affirming health care causes children to die by suicide. As of May 28, there were 154 social media posts about Peterson’s claim across all platforms, and they garnered 10,800 total engagements. Some social media users questioned the safety and effectiveness of gender-affirming health care, while others pointed out that gender-affirming health care leads to better mental health outcomes.

Opioid Settlement Funds: On a recent episode of the late-night television show Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver said that opioid settlement funds should be used to support harm reduction programs, prompting online conversation about harm reduction across multiple social media platforms and in news articles. As of May 28, the YouTube video of this episode was viewed more than 2.3 million times and received 4,603 comments. There were 341 social media posts about Oliver’s segment on X, Facebook, and Instagram, attracting 3.9 million total engagements. Some social media users expressed support for harm reduction, while others claimed, “There is no opioid crisis.”

Polling Spotlight

A new KFF Health Misinformation Tracking Poll, as part of our Misinformation and Trust Initiative, explores how often people encounter health information on TikTok, how much they trust it, and whether it impacts their behavior. Fewer than half of TikTok users trust health information on the app, while four in ten say they trust such information “a great deal” (9%) or “somewhat” (32%; Figure 1). Younger users, particularly those aged 18-29, show higher trust levels, with 53% saying they trust health information at least somewhat, including 17% who trust it a great deal. Black and Hispanic TikTok users are somewhat more likely than White adults who use TikTok to say they trust health information on the app. Among daily TikTok users, who are predominantly younger adults, 58% trust health information on the platform at least somewhat.

The poll also investigated how often people saw health information about various topics on the platform and found that a majority of users report seeing health-related content on the app, most commonly information about mental health (66%) and weight loss (66%). About a third (36%) of TikTok users report seeing information about abortion on the platform. Younger users, particularly those aged 18 to 29, are more likely to encounter this content, with 59% having seen abortion-related information.

Approximately 42% of TikTok users say they have seen information or advice about vaccines on the platform. Most users report that the content they’ve encountered hasn’t affected their confidence in vaccine safety and effectiveness, with about 15% saying it made them less confident and 12% saying it made them more confident (Figure 2). Among parents who use TikTok, 17% report feeling less confident in vaccines due to content on the app, compared to similar shares (11%) who feel more confident. Previous KFF polling has found that about a quarter of parents believe false information about measles vaccines. Notably, Republican users on TikTok are more likely to say content on the app has decreased their confidence in vaccines, with 24% of Republicans saying TikTok content has led them to feel less confident compared to 7% say it has made them feel more confident.

Research Updates

Study Explores Challenges in Reducing Resistance to Vaccine Messaging

In this Monitor, we report on a study published in the journal Health Communication that explored ways to reduce “reactance”, or feeling like your personal freedom is threatened, when given vaccine-related communication. The researchers tested if the practice of “inoculation” or warning people about feeling reactance before a message promoting a fake vaccine would reduce reactance. They found that the warning didn’t reduce resistance or change minds about vaccines; sometimes it even caused more resistance in some of the participants. The study ultimately found that people who are naturally more resistant (high-reactant) were less willing to get vaccinated, especially when the message threatened their freedom a lot. But those less resistant (low-reactant) were more open to vaccines, especially with a high-threat message.

Source: Karlsson, L. C., Mäki, K. O., Holford, D., Fasce, A., Schmid, P., Lewandowsky, S., & Soveri, A. (2024). Testing psychological inoculation to reduce reactance to vaccine-related communication. Health Communication, 1-9.

Perceptions of Fact-Checking Labels Vary by Political Affiliation

study published in the Harvard Misinformation Review looked at how people view fact-checking labels, like those you might see on social media posts. They found that labels from professional fact checkers were seen as the most effective, followed by labels from news media. Labels by algorithms and users were seen as less effective. Republicans tended to trust these labels less than Democrats did. People who trust news media and have positive views of social media tend to see these labels as more effective. Also, if people had seen these labels before, they were more likely to trust them, especially if they trusted news media or had positive views of social media.

Source: Jia, C. & Lee, T. (2024). Journalistic interventions matter: Understanding how Americans perceive fact-checking labels. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review. https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-138

AI & Emerging Technology

Features and Challenges of WHO’s New AI Tool

While not directly spreading misinformation, the World Health Organization’s new AI tool, SARAH, has faced challenges providing accurate health information, highlighting the potential for AI-generated content to contribute to the spread of misinformation inadvertently. SARAH is designed to provide health information through a human-like avatar that operates 24/7 in multiple languages to educate users on various health topics. However, according to Bloomberg, SARAH has outdated medical data and occasionally provides wrong or made-up answers, due to its reliance on ChatGPT 3.5. (deleted because unclear what this means). Despite these limitations, SARAH is seen as a first step towards using AI to enhance public health education. WHO seeks input to improve SARAH’s accuracy and utility, especially in emergency health situations. WHO also emphasizes that AI chatbots like SARAH are not substitutes for professional medical advice.

About The Health Misinformation and Trust Initiative: The Health Misinformation and Trust Initiative is a new KFF program aimed at tracking health misinformation in the U.S, analyzing its impact on the American people, and mobilizing media to address the problem. Our goal is to be of service to everyone in the health misinformation and trust field and to help efforts to counter misinformation, build trust, and be more effective.

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Support for the Misinformation and Trust initiative is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of RWJF and KFF maintains full editorial control over all of its policy analysis, polling, and journalism activities. The Public Goods Project (PGP) provides media monitoring data KFF uses in producing the Monitor.

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