We’ve all probably lied a little on our blogs. Maybe you’ve told stories of old dates, friendships and jobs and have embellished the truth in order to make them a little more interesting. Maybe you’ve tweaked it in order to make yourself look better. It’s a natural thing to want to do.
But how many of you would go a step further and actually lie about a terminal illness in order to sell a product? No many I hope, but it’s something that one Australian blogger did and something that (perhaps rightly) is currently getting her into a lot of trouble.
The Blogger Who Lied
Belle Gibson, 25, is an Aussie blogger who gained a larger following after she had claimed to have cured her terminal cancer using a series of alternative treatments. She claimed to have turned down traditional medical treatments in favor of Ayurvedic medicine, a diet free from refine sugar and gluten, and plenty of oxygen therapy (so….breathing?).
When her fame was at its highest, she even released a cookbook and an app, titled The Whole Pantry. She promised to donate a share of the profits from the sales of this book and app to several charities.
Everything seemed to be going well for Belle. But as you can tell from the title of this piece, not everything was quite as it seemed. In fact, every little of what Belle claimed was actually true and the lies began to unravel.
Gibson eventually admitted that she made everything up. And we mean everything. Not only had she not had terminal cancer or treated her condition with alternative means, but she hadn’t been giving a single penny to charity.
Whatever sympathy the public might have had for a woman who let a lie spiral out of control, was gone when they realized that she pocketed all of the money she made and didn’t give any of it to good causes or to the people whose lives she put at risk.
Gibson’s lie lasted for two years and she made a fortune in that time. She did promise to send $300,000 to charity when the lie was exposed, but it was too little too late. It was her hope that she could win favor and save face. But damage was done and a lawsuit beckoned.
On Wednesday, March 15, an Australia court ruled that Belle Gibson had intentionally deceived the public and would be facing charges for her deception. The court argued that she might have actually believed her claims, that she might have genuinely thought the products she praised were effective. But even if that was the case, she definitely didn’t have cancer and she definitely didn’t give any money to charity.
The ruling means that Belle Gibson will now return to court at a later date in order to face punishment. She has breached consumer law and will likely face fines and suspensions as opposed to jail time, but along with the public backlash, it’s likely to be just as bad as any jail sentence cold have been.
So, What Was the Problem?
It’s very easy to look at this situation and say that it never should have happened. And that’s certainly true. But it’s incredibly easy to start writing a blog. You just need the desire to do so and an idea to follow. For Ms. Gibson the idea revolved around a lie. And it seems likely that she didn’t realize how far that lie would go.
If she ran an obscure blog that operated purely on leads, few of us would care. After all, how many blogs have you see advertising a “miracle supplement” and showing big, bulky, obviously photoshopped blogger?
We know they are fake. We know they’re lying. But it’s so obvious we don’t care. The same applies across the board. As someone who curates several freelancing websites, I personally get requests everyday from freelancers/bloggers who are clearly lying in order to make a few bucks. But while frustrating, it’s almost expected, and it’s certainly not as bad as what happened here.
What Belle Gibson did was take this fairly innocent idea and turn it into something quite disturbing. Not only did her message reach more people, but it was presented in manner that didn’t make it look entirely fake at fist glance.
What’s more. She wasn’t selling some miracle supplement that everyone could tell was fake to people who were greedy and stupid. She was selling hope to the desperate. And in doing so, she was risking the lives of her followers.
There is a line between “innocent internet lie” and “real world scam”, and Belle Gibson crossed it.