Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Public Health

Social media attacks on public health advocates

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 08 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6006
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  1. martin.mckee{at}

How big corporations are helping to fund the internet trolls

For those who advocate for healthy public policies, social media are both a blessing and a curse. They offer a means of communicating instantly to large audiences. Yet they also offer the opportunity for those seeking to undermine public health to undermine you. Your words are taken out of context and twisted. You are insulted and abused on Twitter. Most of us soon realise that this is the price to be paid for taking a stand and refuse to engage with our attackers, whose main aim seems to be to provoke a hostile response that they can ruthlessly exploit. We rapidly become adept at using Twitter’s “block” function.

But who is behind these attacks? It is not always easy to know, as many shelter behind the anonymity afforded by the web. Some are clearly extreme libertarians, opposed to any role for the state and, especially, anything that gets in the way of the right of informed adults to engage …

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