Researchers found anti-vaccination discourse on Facebook increased in volume over the last decade, and increasingly emphasizes civil rights

November 16, 2020

Knight Foundation

A recent study led by the George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics’ associate director David Broniatowski found that anti-vaccination discourse on Facebook increased over the last decade, uniting around the argument that vaccine refusal is a civil right. 

For this study, published on October 1, 2020 in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers examined more than 250,000 posts on 204 Facebook pages expressing opposition to vaccines between October 2009 and October 2019. While opposition to vaccines can take many forms, the researchers found vaccine opponents online coalescing around the “civil liberties” argument that individuals have the right to refuse to take a vaccine. As federal agencies, scientists and companies work to develop and manufacture a safe and effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus, this finding could have critical public health implications.

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