CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has reported extensively on the growing popularity of cannabis-based products. But a social media post, which links to a webpage masquerading as a CNN article, falsely claims Gupta is selling cannabidiol gummies. A CNN spokesperson said the content on the page is “completely false” and not from CNN.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent at CNN, has reported many times on cannabis-related products. His special on cannabidiol, or CBD, in 2019 — “Weed 5: The CBD Craze” — explored possible health benefits and possible dangers of CBD products.
But his investigations have not led him down a new business path of selling CBD, as suggested in a fabricated webpage shared in a redirected link from a Facebook post.
The post shares a photo of Gupta, a bogus claim that “Disturbing Allegations Surface Against Dr. Gupta,” and a link with the title, “Medical Expert Under Fire.”
But the link included in the post goes to an item that doesn’t make any reference to “disturbing allegations” made against Gupta. Instead, the webpage masquerades as a CNN article, using Gupta’s name and image to make the false claim he sells a line of CBD products.
The bogus article — which includes faux CNN bylines and logo — claims that Gupta is selling “FunDrops CBD Gummies,” adding, “his CBD wellness line is 77% cheaper and four times more effective than those being offered by Bayer and other ‘Big Pharma’ companies.”
Neel Khairzada, CNN’s director of public relations, told us in an email that the article is “completely false and is not from CNN website.”
A Social Media Trend and a Major Lawsuit
As we’ve reported, fake articles pretending to be from well-known media outlets have been repeatedly used on social media platforms to promote the sale of cannabidiol gummies, an edible form of a chemical found in marijuana.
In the flurry of posts last year, deceptive articles were surfaced to Facebook users through ads that vaguely suggested the Fox News stars were in trouble with the network for their “latest business venture.”
In October, actor Clint Eastwood and Garrapata, the company that owns the rights to his likeness, won $6.1 million in a lawsuit against a Lithuanian company, Mediatonas UAB, for falsely claiming Eastwood had endorsed CBD products.
The bogus article about Gupta also includes the name of other celebrities, including Halle Berry, Randy Jackson and Tom Hanks, with phony testimonials for the advertised CBD product.
The website address for “FunDrops CBD Gummies” is registered by NAMECHEAP Inc., a company that provided an address in Iceland, according to ICANN’s domain registration search tool. But its client – the company selling the product – is redacted for privacy, which is typical in such cases.
Nick Nikiforakis, an associate professor of computer science at Stony Brook University, had told us that such “cloaking” of a webpage can make it harder for analysts and researchers to identify scams.
For example, those setting up such a ruse may only show the full-page ad to people visiting the link from a certain source, he said, or only display the ad to the same person once.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
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Bauer, Brent. “What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?” Mayoclinic.org. 18 Dec 2020.
“Dr. Sanjay Gupta” webpage. CNN. Accessed 14 Jan 2022.
Fichera, Angelo and Saranac Hale Spencer. “On Facebook, Fake Stories Use Fox News Hosts to Hawk Dubious CBD Products.” FactCheck.org. Updated 20 Aug 2021.
Khairzada, Neel. Director of public relations, CNN. Email to FactCheck.org. 14 Jan 2022.
Jones, Brea. “Posts Falsely Tie Evangelical Leader to Cannabis Product.” FactCheck.org. 14 Jun 2021.
“Sanjay Gupta” webpage. Emory University. Accessed 14 Jan 2021.
“Weed 5: The CBD Craze CNN Sanjay Gupta Full Documentary 2019.” YouTube. 3 May 2021.
“Weed 5: The CBD Craze Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports.” Transcript. CNN. 29 Sept 2019
This article was written by Brea Jones during her time as an NABJ/Facebook Fact-Checking Fellow at the University of Pennslyvania’s publication Factcheck.org.