Measuring the monetization strategies of websites with application to pro- and anti-vaccine communities

September 25, 2023

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Anti-vaccine content and other kinds of misinformation are hypothesized to be more heavily monetized than other kinds of online content. We test this hypothesis by applying several novel and scalable measures of website monetization strategies to more than 400,000 links shared by 261 anti-vaccine Facebook pages and 190 pro-vaccine ones. Contrary to expectations, websites promoted in pro-vaccine venues do more to monetize attention than those promoted in anti-vaccine venues. This is a consequence of how intensely monetized news websites are—pro-vaccine venues share more links to news. The specific news sites shared by anti-vaccine venues are rated less credible by fact-checking organizations, but we find little substantive difference in their monetization strategies. These results emphasize the need to interpret measures of monetization within the context of the broader “attention economy”.

Read the journal article in Nature.