Friday, 24 August 2018

Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to


Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to Sow Discord, Study Finds “Don’t get #vaccines. Illuminati is behind it.”

“Do you continue to treat your kids with leaves? No? And why don’t you #vaccinate them? It’s medicine!”

With messages like those, Russian internet trolls meddling within the 2016 presidential election also lashed out at Americans debating the security of vaccines, a replacement study has found.

But rather than picking a side, researchers said, the trolls and bots they programmed hurled insults at both pro- and anti-vaccine advocates. Their only intent, the study concluded, appeared to be to boost the extent of hostility.

“You see this pattern,” said David A. Broniatowski, a computer engineer at George
Washington University and lead author of the study, which was published Thursday within the American Journal of Public Health.

“On guns or race, these accounts take opposite sides in many debates. They’re about sowing discord.”

With colleagues at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, Dr.
Broniatowski checked out 899 vaccine-related tweets sent from mid-2014 to late 2017.

Some came from accounts known to send spam or link to malware; more came from accounts that congressional investigators and NBC News have identified as belonging to Russian trolls.

While the spammer and malware accounts mostly disseminated anti-vaccine messages, the Russia-linked ones played each side.

Most of the anti-vaccine tweets repeated well-known but long-discredited rumors, like people who vaccines cause autism or contain dangerous amounts of mercury.

Others accused pharmaceutical companies of caring only about profits, not children.

Pro-vaccine tweets from an equivalent account argued that vaccines saved lives.

Some said they ought to be mandatory.

Some were insulting, like “You can’t fix stupidity. allow them to die from measles, and I’m for #vaccination.”

But the Russians sometimes misread their audience, Dr. Broniatowski said, sending tweets that “didn’t quite add up, given the way Americans usually argue about vaccines.”

Some, for instance, suggested that God opposed vaccination. "I don’t believe #vaccines I think in God’s will,” one read.

Divine will is extremely rarely cited within the American debate except when HPV vaccine is discussed, then not over the notion that God ordains which children fall ill.

HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, which is sexually transmitted, and a few Christian conservatives believe it encourages free love.

Other tweets promoted class hostility, saying the elite get “clean vaccines” while normal people didn't.

Yet others appeared designed to appeal to the audience for conspiracy websites like Infowars.

One claimed that vaccines were a part of the planet's domination plan of the Illuminati secret sect.

More than 250 tweets had the weird hashtag #VaccinateUS.

Anti-vaccination activists tend to use tags like #Vaxxed, #b1less or #CDCWhistleblower, Dr. Broniatowski said, while pro-vaccine groups use #vaccineswork, for instance.

Tweets carrying the hashtag #VaccinateUS, the study said, were “uniquely identified with Russian troll accounts linked to the web Research Agency,” a propaganda operation linked to the Kremlin.

That account, which Twitter closed, “was a failed campaign by Russian trolls,” Dr. Broniatowski said.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is lower in Russia than in many other European countries.

Consistent with the planet Health Organization, nearly one hundred pc of Russian children have had all their shots.

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