New research shows the bigger threat to public trust in a Covid-19 vaccine comes from smaller, better-connected Facebook groups.
Vaccination proponents and misinformation researchers had been waiting for years for Facebook to take action against the biggest and most influential anti-vaccination pages.
So it was with some trepidation that they welcomed the news that the social network last week had banned some of the most popular and prolific anti-vaccination accounts — pages that had also pushed Covid-19 vaccination misinformation to millions of people.
Their impact, however, lives on. While researchers of extremism and public health advocates see the removal of the largest anti-vaccination accounts as mostly positive, new research shows the bigger threat to public trust in a Covid-19 vaccine comes from smaller, better-connected Facebook groups that gravitated to anti-vaccination messaging in recent months.
“What we’re seeing play out with Covid is what was already in the system," Neil Johnson, a physicist at George Washington University who studies online extremism, said. "It was primed for that at the end of 2019.”