Fact checks on health products and scams

FACT CHECK: Ad uses deepfake video of Doc Willie Ong to promote voice and throat supplement


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FACT CHECK: Ad uses deepfake video of Doc Willie Ong to promote voice and throat supplement
Ong has clarified in the past that the only product he and his wife are endorsing is a nutritional milk for seniors

Claim: Cardiologist and online medical personality Dr. Willie Ong is promoting a voice and throat enhancer supplement that can cure vocal cord nodules.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook ad containing the claim has now accumulated 535 reactions, 100 comments, 26,000 views, and 73 shares, as of writing.

It was posted by a page known as “Human Voice,” which promotes the food supplement “Voice and Throat Enhancer,” which is claimed to be a natural way to cure vocal nodules.

The video shows Doc Willie Ong, an internist and cardiologist known for providing medical advice through his vlogs, purportedly promoting the product. It also used videos and photo slides of singer Gigi de Lana who had been diagnosed with having throat nodules in 2023. A photo of Doc Willie Ong and his wife was also used in the actual website of the product supposedly promoting the supplement.

The video falsely claims that the product is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and contains graphics with text that extols the supposed benefits of the supplement. 

The facts: The supposed promotion by Doc Willie Ong is AI-manipulated. Sensity, a web-based tool for detecting AI, found the video “suspicious” with a 91.5% confidence level. Another video of a random individual supposedly giving her testimony about the product was also included and flagged as 79.3% AI-generated.

Sensity noted that “high confidence” indicates the detector has identified clear signals of AI generation or manipulation, with a minimum confidence threshold set at 50%. Established in 2018, Sensity specializes in the detection of “deepfakes and various other forms of malicious visual media.”

It is worth noting, however, that Ong did create a video educating people about vocal cord nodules and their impact on singer-celebrities such as Gigi de Lana. However, Ong did not mention nor endorse any specific product, including the Voice and Throat Enhancer, in his YouTube vlog.

Ong has clarified in the past that the only product he and his wife are endorsing is Birch Tree Advance, a nutritional milk for seniors.

Unregistered: Contrary to its claim, Dragon Herbs’ Voice and Throat Enhancer is not on the FDA’s roster of approved food and drug products.

Vocal cord nodules: Vocal cord nodules are noncancerous growths that develop on the vocal cords. They usually develop for various reasons, such as vocal strain, excessive use, and improper use such as prolonged yelling or singing. Other contributing factors may include chronic coughing, allergies, smoking, dry air, and acid reflux.

While there isn’t a specific medication or supplement designed to cure vocal cord nodules, surgical removal, appropriate behavioral interventions, and dietary adjustments can help.

Target of Deepfakes: Deepfakes of celebrities and famous personalities thrive on social media platforms because their influence and reputation pull in high engagement, thus making for good advertisement of products. Medical professionals and online health figures like Ong have been among the target personalities. 

Rappler has already debunked a couple of false claims that use AI-manipulated videos and fake promotions supposedly by Doc Willie Ong:

 – Jerry Yubal Jr./Rappler.com

Jerry Yubal Jr. is a campus journalist from the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City Main Campus. The executive editor of Amaranth, he is also an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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