Belle Gibson admitted in 2015 that it was all bull.
Belle Gibson in an interview with 60 Minutes. Image: YouTube
There are serious consequences that come from hawking pseudoscience online, including harming your readers or yourself. But in case physical harm isn't enough motivation to quit slinging shady "wellness" advice online, here's another reason: you could wind up getting fined.
That's what happened to disgraced Australian wellness blogger Belle Gibson, who has been fined $322,000 for claiming she treated her brain cancer without conventional medicine. Gibson had said she overcame an inoperable brain tumor, stroke, and cardiac arrests through clean eating, and avoiding dairy, gluten, and coffee. Conveniently, these claims helped her to sell her book The Whole Pantry, and app of the same name, raking in nearly half a million AUD. But in 2015, an investigation by Australian Women's Weekly—complete with Gibson's confession—revealed it was all a hoax.
In response, Consumer Affairs Victoria brought a case to federal court, and in March Gibson was found guilty of five breaches of consumer law. On Thursday, Gibson was ordered to pay the fine of $410,000 AUD ($322,000 USD).
It's not the first time shady wellness tips have caused controversy for bloggers. Gwyneth Paltrow's venture, Goop—the epitome of pseudoscience profiteering—has been called out for flogging all kinds of questionable goods, including a jade vagina egg that some gynecologists warned could cause infections.
Or the wellness trend of eating whole aloe vera leaves that led one vlogger to be hospitalized after eating a poisonous agave plant by mistake.
When wellness bloggers tell the truth, and really do try to fight off cancer without any conventional treatment, it doesn't usually work out so well. A popular 30-year-old blogger died in 2015 after she tried to cure her cancer with coffee enemas and raw juices. And in case you're inclined to trust your blogger of choice, lest we forget the former naturopath who told us how easy it was to create and sell a detox diet scam.
Wellness blogging is a trendy, profitable market right now, but let this be a warning: all that easy money can come at a price.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.