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Fitbit Force Recall: Case Study In Online Health Activism?

The author's Fitbit Force rash (Courtesy)

Alexandra Lucas’s Fitbit Force rash, even after weeks without the tracker (Courtesy)

Nearly a month ago, we posted a Boston health care executive’s account of the nasty rash she developed from the Fitbit Force activity tracker: Love That Fitbit Force Tracker, Don’t Love The Wretched Wrist Rash.

The author, Alexandra Lucas, described not just the rash but the vibrant online community that arose among Fitbit users who developed it, and asked: “Will social media wake the company up, or bring them down?”

On Friday, word spread that Fitbit had announced that it had stopped selling the Force and was issuing a voluntary recall.

The announcement by Fitbit CEO James Park does not mention the online user community and the mainstream media coverage it garnered. But the Fitbit Force story seems to offer an interesting case study in consumer health activism in the Internet age. Alexandra Lucas scanned the coverage of the recall, and found that 14 articles included mention of the Fitbit Forum and other social media. She emailed:

Reading this summary, I do think we made a difference in getting an unsafe product off the market — as well as creating an online resource on diagnosis and treatment for people who are affected.

The Fitbit discussion forum is going strong with 3,400 posts (!) and more than 600 people with the rash/burn identified on one member’s spreadsheet. Many of us feel that Fitbit is not doing enough to let the 98% not affected (yet) know of the risks they face by continuing to wear the Force, and we continue to spread the word online and through social media.

Here’s part of her list of media mentions of the online user forum: Continue reading