Researchers warn scientists are fighting health misinformation in the wrong place.
Communities on Facebook that distrust establishment health guidance are more effective than government health agencies and other reliable health groups at reaching and engaging “undecided” individuals, according to a first-of-its-kind study published today by researchers at George Washington University and other institutions in the journal Nature.
The researchers tracked the vaccine conversation among 100 million Facebook users during the height of the 2019 measles outbreak. The new study and its “battleground” map reveal how distrust in establishment health guidance could spread and dominate online conversations over the next decade, potentially jeopardizing public health efforts to protect populations from COVID-19 and future pandemics through vaccinations.
Professor Neil Johnson and his GW research team, including professor Yonatan Lupu and researchers Nicolas Velasquez, Rhys Leahy and Nico Restrepo, collaborated with researchers at the University of Miami, Michigan State University and Los Alamos National Laboratory to better understand how distrust in scientific expertise evolves online, especially related to vaccines.