A new study has shown, and this is NOT FAKE NEWS, that Twitter bots and trolls are to blame for “spreading misinformation” and discord on the topic of vaccines; it’s no longer the fault of the anti-vaxxer because it appears they don’t actually exist! The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Lead study author David Broniatowski, an assistant professor at George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science in Washington, D.C. said,
“The vast majority of Americans believe vaccines are safe and effective, but looking at Twitter gives the impression that there is a lot of debate. It turns out that many anti-vaccine tweets come from accounts whose provenance is unclear, including bots or hacked accounts.
Although it’s impossible to know exactly how many tweets were generated by bots and trolls, our findings suggest that a significant portion of the online discourse about vaccines may be generated by malicious actors with a range of hidden agendas.”1
The team analyzed thousands of tweets posted to Twitter between July 2014 and September 2017, including a random sample of tweets and tweets that specifically mentioned vaccines. Then they used data to identify accounts known to belong to bots or trolls (including “Russian troll” accounts). What they found was that “content polluters” (bot accounts that distribute malware and unsolicited commercial content) shared anti-vaccine messages 75 percent more than average Twitter users. 2
Let’s pause here. What the researchers actually found was bot accounts using our message as “bait” to enrage the public. The trolls in this study were doing what they do today, sow discord. I’m not sure this study found anything that the average parent who cares about the safety of their children and is active online, didn’t already know.
But we should be careful, or at least aware of what’s going on around us. As we continue this fight against forced vaccinations and the eroding of our most basic human rights– the right to choose what’s best for ourselves and our children– we have to remember who and what we are up against.
And lastly, please remember you are not alone. There are countless doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and scientists who stand with you.