Bots and Russian trolls spread false information about vaccines on Twitter, according to a new study before and during the 2016 presidential election, sowing strife and spreading harmful content.
Scientists have made the discovery while investigating how socially media communications for public health workers could be improved.
According to researchers, Russian trolls played from both sides and tweeted pro and anti-vaccine content.
"These trolls seem to use vaccination as a wedge problem in discord in American society," said Mark Dredze, a team member and professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, who was involved in the study, the Guardian.
By tweeting both pro- and anti-vaccine information, Russian trolls are able to undermine public trust in cross-border vaccination.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, in Europe, where there is a large outbreak of measles ha (1
In the first half of 2018, there were 41,000 measles cases across Europe, more" The vast majority of Americans believe that vaccines are safe and effective, but the look on Twitter gives the impression that there are a lot to discuss, "said David Broniatowsky, assistant professor in George Washington's School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The trolls reportedly tried to associate the vaccine with other topics in the US, such as race and religion, and even aimed at the legitimacy of the government.
"Accounts that camouflage themselves as legitimate users create false equivalence and erode public consensus about the vaccine," researchers concluded.
Scientists examined a sample of 1.7 million tweets collected between July 2014 and September 2017, which was a crucial time during the presidential campaign. To identify bots, they compared the rate at which ordinary users tweeted about vaccines to the rate at which bots and trolls tweeted.
AMAZON PAYS A CRITICAL TWITTER ARMY TO CONVINCE THEIR STORES IS NOT CRUSH
Broniatowski told the Guardian that bots tweeted all 550 tweets about vaccines, compared to once every 12,000 tweets for human accounts.
Social media companies continued to be confronted with their false accounts and misinformation. Both Twitter and Facebook have removed accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a so-called troll farm linked to the Russian government. Last week, Facebook removed another 650 accounts linked to Russia and Iran, which spread misinformation.