Skip down to main content

Understanding anti-vaxx communities on social media

With Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka, and Professor Philip Howard
27 Jan 2021
With Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka, and Professor Philip Howard

The Coronavirus pandemic is on the verge of a turning point, as the rollout of vaccination programs worldwide brings hope that the disease may finally start to recede. However, public confidence in vaccine programmes cannot be taken for granted: and in many countries the number of people willing to take a vaccine is lower than the threshold required for herd immunity. One reason for this lack of confidence is the continued influence of the worldwide ‘anti-vaxx’ movement, which is gaining increasing prominence through its use of social media.

Anti-vaccination communities are highly organised on social media and make use of a web of counterfeit news sites to spread misleading health information. They promote narratives that vaccines are harmful, alter DNA and deployed in order to control people. And outlets that spread foreign state backed propaganda push their own narratives about failing government responses in Europe and miracle cures developed in Russia and China. This information has already contributed to undermining public trust in the Covid-19 vaccines.

In this talk, we present our most recent research into anti-vaccination communities on social media and their content. This research helps to understand how anti-vaxx content producers operate and how they spread and monetise their content. In our talk, we offer some quantitative measurements of the anti-vaxx problem, and review how content spreads on different platforms. We also explain how the producers of this content make money from anti-vaxx ideas, and offer recommendations and solutions to policymakers and practitioners working in the field of platform governance.

Related Topics