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  • COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 13 July 2021

    13 July 2021

    COVID-19 Newsletter

    Should Platforms Ban
    Anti-Vaxxers or Talk to Them?

    The COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter is prepared by the staff of the Programme on Democracy and Technology (DemTech) at Oxford University. We summarise the latest independent research and high-quality news reporting on the production and consumption of computational propaganda and campaigns to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis. The newsletter is edited by Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka. It is two-minute read.

    News Briefing

    Analysis by First Draft highlights key misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccines that continue to circulate on social media. These narratives include claims that vaccines undermine civil liberties, are a step towards “medical Marxism”, driven by corrupt financial interests, and dangerous for children.

    Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protest movements remain relatively prominent in some western countries, The Economist reports. These movements now unite “both anarchist left and anti-establishment right” and are growing as “a libertarian opposition” to global measures to tackle emerging global problems such as climate change or travel during the pandemic.

    Information spread through Twitter and YouTube is more likely to be a product of coordinated operations from commercial or political interests compared to information shared on Facebook and WhatsApp. This finding is reported by the COVID InfoDisorder project, which analysed disinformation seen by Venezuelan audiences.

    Academic Research

    In their commentary for the American Journal of Public Health, a group of researchers argues banning content that encourages vaccine hesitancy and de-platforming its creators might yield unintended consequences. Instead, platforms could promote a two-way dialogue between community advocates and physicians on the one hand, and the vaccine-hesitant on the other. Messages directed at the vaccine-hesitant should “be targeted and tailored”, the researchers say.

    Individuals “of lower-income, education, and self-rated online ability are less likely to seek out and update their knowledge about the pandemic.” This is according to research published in Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media. Researchers also found that some groups of Americans are information-rich but knowledge-poor about the pandemic, indicating the importance of the promotion of accurate health information.

    Big Data & Society presents a collection of research articles on the COVID-19 infodemic on digital media. Research articles cover topics such as toxic language in discussions around mask policies, discourse around the use of unproven methods to treat COVID-19, as well as the volume of possible misinformation before and after lockdown announcements.

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