Blogger fined $420k for #fakenews

The 'Belle Effect' is an age-old syndrome already rife across all our media platforms. When will we learn?

Australia’s Federal Court in Melbourne has handed down a verdict following an investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) which determined that the blogger and self-proclaimed cancer survivor, Belle Gibson, had misrepresented herself and made fraudulent claims.

In a landmark case that should get the attention of all social media gurus and ‘influencers’, it highlights the vulnerability of the public in getting their news and advice from so-called experts via unverified social media sources ie #fakenews. A glaring case of ‘people believe what they want to believe’, fueled by a popular media hungry for sensation and a complete lack of fact-checking in their rush jump on the bandwagon.

Young, blonde and vivacious, Ms Gibson seduced not only the public, but also the media and publishing industry with her story of self-curing brain cancer with diet and alternative therapies.

Even when exposed, 60 minutes saw a way to keep the gravy train rolling

She was frequently seen on TV chat shows and obtained a book deal with Penguin who also copped a $30,000 fine for being part of the “unconscionable sequence of events”, although we hope this error was unwitting. The book, ‘The Whole Pantry’ has since been removed from shelves. All this gleefully gobbled up despite the fact that Ms Gibson refused to show any proof of her diagnosis for cancers she claimed to have in her blood, spleen, uterus and liver by a German magnetic therapist who she consistently declined to name. In the end, it was former friends who blew the whistle on Gibson, not any decent journalist or investigator.

What do you think it was about your Instagram posts that attracted so many followers? "Authenticity and integrity. It really is that simple. There’s not enough honesty out there." — The Whole Pantry, Belle Gibson

Whether it's the likes of Peter Foster and his amazing herbal tea, 'Dr' David Kaye and his Sydney Trauma Clinic or the perennial 'snake oil salesman', the 'Catch Me If You Can' fraudster seems to be a permanent part of our landscape that now extends to social media.

Con artists have been around forever. Social media gives them a new global platform.

“It should be no surprise that these (falsehoods) have adapted for the times and can now be found in a variety of TV shows, apps and websites peddled by a cacophony of wellness bloggers (who strain both credulity and grammar), lifestyle gurus or outlier doctors,“ wrote SMH columnist Amy Gray, “The surprise is that we still fall for them."

PAUL BARRY: ...what’s remarkable about Belle’s remarkable story is that no one who swallowed it apparently bothered to check it was true. Not the publishers at Penguin. Nor the chaps at Apple. Nor a parade of media admirers at The Sunday Telegraph,, Cosmopolitan, Australian Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Elle and Channel Seven’s Sunrise, among others.
— ABC, Media Watch, 16 March, 2015

As the many thousands of dollars rolled in, the glamorous huckster promised to make donations to various cancer causes, specifically one to assist the family of young Joshua Schwarz, a boy with an inoperable brain tumour who she said mirrored her own experience. She failed in all these promises, donating a paltry $10,000.

In handing down the fine, Federal Court Judge Debbie Mortimer said, "If there is one theme or pattern which emerges through her conduct, it is her relentless obsession with herself and what best serves her interests."

We swallowed it whole. Every last morsel of bullshit.

Ms Gibson refused to appear in court for any of the hearings and has never issued any sort of apology.

While there may not be many on the scale of Ms Gibson’s scandal, social media is rife with biased opinions paid for by PR-hungry brands looking to muscle in on media attention, social or otherwise. Nevertheless, many small-time ‘influencers’ in the travel, lifestyle and fashion space are having a similar effect on the opinions of the public, hopefully without such potentially disastrous consequences.

Pleased with the fine and ruling, Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marlene Kairouz said Ms Gibson “... knew exactly what she was doing and thankfully there aren't many people out there like Belle Gibson."

Or are there?

Sources include ABC News

Guidelines for starting a travel story

Writers Block (BigStock)

Remember standing up if front of your primary school class and reciting “what I did in my holidays”? Did they stay awake? The same is true for travel writing and unless you grab your audience’s attention early, you’ve lost them forever.

“We did this” and “then we went there” are the travel writing equivalent of watching paint dry. Travel writing needs colour and excitement. It needs to transport the reader into the middle of the location, immerse them in the experience and leave them wanting more.

When I’m trying to start a story, I always remember some advice given to me by Don George of Lonely Planet.

“Find the passion point,” he told me.

By this, Don means pinpoint the one key moment in your journey, trip or experience that encapsulates the event. It might be an encounter with an interesting person (this is always good) or a moment of visual climax that was why you went there in the first place. There are no rules to this except to say that if the moment excited you for whatever reasons, then chances are if communicated correctly, it will excite your reader too.

The theory behind this is as much to capture the attention of a commissioning editor as it is to immediately glue your reader to the rest of the story. If you can’t get attention in the first paragraph, or two, then you don’t have a story – or not a saleable one anyway.

Hence, your first paragraph should begin with this event and your last paragraph should be the resolution or conclusion of this event ie the lasting experience or lesson you derived from this event. That way your reader will continue through the story, picking up the important practical information and advice you also want to impart before the finale. Here is where you might want to include the input from your host if this was a sponsored trip, perhaps in the form of a quote pulled from a short interview.

[updated] How to share your Facebook videos with anyone

UPDATE: During 2016, Facebook changed the video player interface and moved the video link. But fear not, it's still shareable with non-FB friends and contacts.

All you do now is right-click on the video panel

To activate the menu, right click anywhere on the video panel.
And the new menu will appear. Copy the link from the box.

The new link box will appear and just copy the direct URL

Below is the original post from 2015 >>

A little known and under-used feature of Facebook is the ability to share a link from your uploaded videos to anyone on the net, even if they don't have a Facebook account.

Here's a quick-and-dirty how-to. I'm assuming you already know how to upload a video and where to find it afterwards.

You can click any image to enlarge.

The link can be found in the 'Options' menu, not 'Share'.

The 'Options' menu will present a 'Get Link' option

A link will appear that lets you share with anyone, whether on Facebook or not.
You can paste this link into an email or hotlink your HTML on a web page. Easy.

Look who's talking

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