Few Voices Fuel Much of Vaccine Skepticism

Photo Illustration: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty
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Photo Illustration: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty

A relatively small number of people pump out much of the online misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, according to a Washington Post analysis of a massive Facebook study. 

  • 50% of all vaccine hesitancy content surfaced in just 10 of the 638 population groups studied

  • Just 111 users posted half of all the vaccine hesitant content in the segment behind the most misinformation

  • There’s a “significant overlap” between vaccine-skeptical and QAnon-affiliated communities


Facebook has already banned many baseless claims about vaccines. But some posts stop short of breaking the rules and still stir doubt. Example: Expressing concern about side effects

Major Concern: Nearly 30% of Americans and almost half of all Republican men say they won’t get vaccinated, according to Vox reporting on a PBS NewsHour/Marist/NPR poll.

Facebook announced a new strategy to counter false vaccine claims, Axios reports, by: 

  • Barring the posting of debunked vaccine claims and booting some repeat offenders

  • Making it easy for people to find vaccines and connect with local health authorities

  • Returning validated vaccine info when users search debunked claims

The media play an important role in fighting disinformation, according to experts at yesterday’s Pulitzer Center–Global Health NOW panel at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health virtual conference yesterday.
 
Claire Wardle, a co-founder and director of First Draft, offered a few tips: 

  • Avoid posting questions—e.g., headlines that repeat a rumor—that could unintentionally wind up “giving oxygen” to misinformation

  • Fill data deficits with quality info

  • Teach people how to recognize a false claim so they’ll get better at “spotting it in the wild”
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