U.K. Professor Blames Facebook for Syphilis Surge


A professor in the U.K. says social networking sites like Facebook are responsible for a dramatic rise in the incidence of syphilis in some parts of the country.

Syphilis cases have jumped fourfold in the U.K. regions of Sunderland, Durham and Teeside, and Professor Peter Kelly, the director of public health in Teeside, thinks he knows why: Facebook. Along with being hot spots for syph, studies have shown that young people in those areas are 25 percent more likely to connect to social networking sites than people in the rest of the country.

“There has been a fourfold increase in the number of syphilis cases detected with more young women being affected. I don’t get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites,” Professor Kelly told the Telegraph. “Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex.”

Facebook, naturally, doesn’t see it in quite the same light. “The assertion that Facebook is responsible for the transmission of syphilis is ridiculous. Facebook is no more responsible for STD transmission than newspapers responsible for bad vision,” a Facebook rep said. “Today’s reports exaggerate the comments made by the professor, and ignore the difference between correlation and causation.”

“Our website is not a place to meet people for casual sex,” the rep added. “It’s a place for friends, family and co-workers to connect and share.”

UPDATE: Although the topic was covered in the forums a few days ago, for the benefit of those who may have missed it, it turns out that the professor did not actually cite Facebook specifically. The connection was with social networks in general and even that was exaggerated by initial reports, according to Kelly’s NHS colleague Edward Kunonga. “Our press release was simply trying to highlight the risks of casual sex,” Kunonga said. “We did not make the claim that social networking sites are causing the rise in the incidence of syphilis.” More here.

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