The anti-vaccine movements are part of the emblems of misinformation around the global problems of the last time, related to COVID-19.
Social networks have been one of the most important dissemination channels for these messages. This motivated the development of a study in Facebook, to delve into how this phenomenon developed within this social network.
Small groups, wide impact
A report from The Washington Post revealed Facebook’s analysis of the anti-vaccine movement and its involvement in the social network during this period of pandemic.
The social network starts by assuming a phenomenon previously identified by scholars of the area and everyday users: the platform acts as an echo chamber, in which any message can go viral with a reach that is difficult to predict. Under this premise, the emergence of anti-vaccine currents within the social network is attributed to a small group of users. Despite being few, they have been enough to amplify large chains of disinformation (it is a matter of remembering the theories around 5G, Bill Gates and George Soros).
To stem the first major wave of misinformation unleashed during the initial period of the pandemic in 2020, Facebook tightened its filters on false and misleading vaccine ads. This happened in October, shortly before the world’s first vaccines began to be distributed.
Later, along with promoting the dissemination of news from official health sources, Facebook implemented filters to eliminate publications that made allusion to false news about the vaccination process and also began to notify the erroneous nature of this data to those people who interacted with the publication.
Although in theory these policies may appear to be effective, in practice they have not been entirely so. As not everything is black or white, comments that must be further evaluated can be classified in that intermediate gray scale.
An example of these delicate in-between points may be a post-vaccination testimonial. Just as it can function as a referential tool, to better understand the effects of the vaccine and the process that surrounds its administration, it can also be used to, within a speech of this tone, frame comments that are untrue. A touch of malicious intent and a testimony from this category can be used to instill fear and mistrust. This is a challenge for algorithms today, so for the most part, these cases depend on close inspection.
Anti-vaccine movements are not a new phenomenon. Even the WHO recognizes them as a longer-standing problem. For example, according to information from this same organism, these trends have played an important role in the resurgence of diseases such as measles.
The quoted report of The Washington Post places special emphasis on some situations that exclusively affect the United States, where an important part of the analysis is focused. However, this phenomenon has developed on a global scale and the challenge for social networks is of the same dimensions.