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Former wellness blogger, social media star, and cookbook author Belle Gibson will face prosecution for fabricating claims that she had cancer, according to a business watchdog in Australia. The release from Consumer Affairs Victoria states:
The alleged contraventions relate to false claims by Ms Gibson and her company concerning her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, her rejection of conventional cancer treatments in favour of natural remedies, and the donation of proceeds to various charities.
Gibson rose to social media fame on Instagram in 2013. Through now-deleted Instagram posts, she said she found healing from cancer with natural medicine, Gerson Therapy, and healthy food. The cancer diagnosis, Gibson claimed, came in 2009, when doctors told her she had just four months to live.
Gibson built an empire on the back of her social media fame—writing a cookbook, The Whole Pantry, and developing a companion lifestyle app. Fans started questioning her illness in 2014. And in early 2015, when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article investigating Gibson’s claims, her story fell apart.
Her publisher, Penguin, withdrew her book in the U.K. and Atria Publishing halted plans for a U.S. release. In June 2015, Gibson gave an interview to 60 Minutes, in which she claimed she was the victim. She told reporter Tara Brown that she was misled about her cancer diagnosis by a fake doctor. She also claimed that her lies were influenced by a traumatic childhood.
In response, Gibson’s mother, Natalie Dal-Bello, told the Herald Sun that her daughter’s story about her childhood was a lie, but didn’t think that her daughter’s “porky pies” were a big deal.
In addition to the lies about her health, Gibson also allegedly claimed to donate money from the proceeds of her book and app to charity, claims which have also turned out to be false.
Since the allegations surfaced, Gibson’s social media accounts and blog have been deleted. The Twitter account for her app Whole Pantry links to an article written by Brent Simmons which urges people to “consider that flaming or being mean to somebody isn’t helping the world in any way. Consider proportionality. Consider that you may not have the facts.”
Gibson, Penguin, and Consumer Affairs Victoria did not respond to any requests for comment from the Daily Dot. A press release on the Consumer Affairs website states that Penguin Australia has donated $30,000 to Consumer Affairs and “has agreed to enhance and maintain its compliance, education, and training program for staff” so that this doesn’t happen again.
Commenters on the Facebook group Belle Gibson Uncovered called for swift justice in response to Gibson’s lies, which they claim have hurt hundreds of people desperately seeking help and healing from cancer.
Lyz Lenz is currently the managing editor of the Rumpus. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Jezebel, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Mashable.