What is the Quackometer?

The quackometer is an experiment to see if it is easy to spot quack web sites just from the language they use. The idea for this site came about after various discussions on Guardian writer Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog.

Several people have noted how quack web-sites use similar language and vocabulary and once you can spot the patterns, spotting quackery is easy. Quack words include “energy”, “holistic”, “vibrations”, “magnetic healing”, “quantum” . These words are usually borrowed from physics and used to promote dubious health claims. As such, their use is pseudoscientific and just meant to impress and bamboozle the gullible.

So, is it possible to spot a quack web site just from its use of language? Is is possible to automate the process? The Quackometer intends to find out…

If this works, then all the public need do when faced with suspicious claims, is put the suspect URL into this web site and my little friend, the black duck, will analyse the page and give a verdict.

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