Malicious bots and trolls spread vaccine misinformation – now social media companies are fighting back - 2019-09-18
Social media have become one of the preeminent ways of disseminating accurate information about vaccines. However, a lot of the vaccine information propagated across social media in the United States has been inaccurate or misleading. At a time when vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise, vaccine misinformation has become a cause of concern to public health officials.
A 2018 study showed that a lot of anti-vaccine information is generated by malicious automated programs – known as bots – and online trolls. In a striking parallel with the 2016 presidential campaign and the 2018 midterm elections, some vaccine misinformation on American social media has been traced back to Russia.
At Saint Louis University's Center for Health Law Studies, I monitor legal and policy responses to vaccine misinformation. Now platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are developing strategies to address anti-vaccine bots and to try to reduce their reach in the United States.