Two-thirds of anti-vax propaganda online was created by just 12 influencers, research finds | world news
Research has found that two thirds of the anti-vaccination propaganda posted online is created by just 12 so-called influencers.
Unlike those who describe themselves as vaccine reluctant, anti-vaccinationists tend to use aggressive methods to persuade others not to give themselves injections designed to prevent disease.
The list was compiled by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and found that most figures who claim to be political or medical leaders are based in America.
After social media companies were alerted to the spread of the material, some was removed, but many videos and articles are still online today.
Critics believe some exploit vulnerabilities, meaning that if they publish content under a different name or appear on a page hosted by another user, their anti-vax content will not be removed.
CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed told Sky News that social media giants “don’t bear any of the costs of the content they host”, including dangerous material that can drive users onto their platforms.
He urged companies to do more to remove it quickly amid fears those unvaccinated remain more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and, more importantly, hospitalization.
He said the most effective vaccine opponents are “great marketers” and attracted people by creating content about wellness or fertility and then gradually linking those issues to vaccines.
Mr Ahmed said the algorithms used by social media platforms then fed people more and more similar content until they saw it online frequently – thus normalizing opinions.
“All the platforms care about is content that people spend time on so they can advertise to them at the same time…they’re reluctant to take credible action,” he said.
Ed Stubbs, a teacher who has developed a teaching pack to counter vaccine hesitancy in schools, said that because young people spend so much time online, they could easily find themselves watching a lot of anti-vaccination content.
He warned that fear of the COVID-19 vaccination program had led to fears of other vaccines being given to young people as a matter of course in schools and a growing general reluctance to get vaccinated against anything.
“Young people obviously look at social media, they see quite a lot of jokes on Instagram and Tik Tok, things like ‘I got my vaccine and then this happened to me,'” he said.
“They’re jokes and students would even tell me and laugh as they say it, but it still has an effect on them and instead of vaccines being something quite boring, boring and necessary, it’s something that’s controversial, weird.” and easy is alarming.”
Mr Stubbs added that labeling people who are unvaccinated as anti-vaccination can be dangerous, particularly in schools, as it drives discussion underground and gives teachers less opportunity to open up conversations that could encourage uptake .
But he also warned that teachers must be willing to explain in no uncertain terms the benefits of vaccination and not sit on the fence about being in a position of trust.
Chris Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the government will issue fines and other measures to force social media companies to remove content deemed harmful, but acknowledged that monitoring the Internet is not an easy task.
“The internet is a big space and there’s definitely more work to be done, and we’re committed to making sure we take the necessary action with social media companies,” he said.
“There is always more to do. And indeed, in the coming months, we will be introducing an Online Safety Act to go even further and impose legal obligations on social media companies to ensure that they act in this space.”