Why Anti-Vaxxers Often Win Out on Facebook

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May 13, 2020

Groups that spread vaccine misinformation on social media have more impact than government health agencies and other expert organizations on undecided people, a new study finds.

The spread of false information could have significant public health consequences if an effective COVID-19 vaccine is developed, the researchers noted.

For the study, investigators developed an innovative tool to map vaccine conversations among 100 million Facebook users during the height of the 2019 measles outbreak.

"There is a new world war online surrounding trust in health expertise and science, particularly with misinformation about COVID-19, but also distrust in big pharmaceuticals and governments," said lead author Neil Johnson, a professor who heads a new initiative in Complexity and Data Science at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "Nobody knew what the field of battle looked like, though, so we set to find out."

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