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  • COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 27 July 2021

    27 July 2021

    COVID-19 Newsletter

    Anti-Vaxxers Increasingly
    Borrowing From Extremist Playbook

    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 a two-minute read.

    News Briefing

    NBC reports that anti-vaccination groups are using code words and euphemisms like “Dance Party” or “Dinner Party” to evade bans on Facebook and Instagram. This approach borrows from a playbook used for years by extremists on social media, the journalists observe.

    The Biden administration expects that vaccine hesitancy will continue to slow growth in the numbers of people being vaccinated for coronavirus, Politico reports. A senior official stated, “the first 180 million were much easier [to reach] than the next five million.”

    YouTube has removed at least 15 videos posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro because they spread misinformation about coronavirus, the BBC reports. Since the start of the pandemic, the President has spoken out against lockdowns, masks, and vaccination.

    Academic Research

    A study published in Nature Medicine finds a considerably higher willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine in low- and middle-income countries compared with the United States and Russia. Authors argue that messages “highlighting vaccine efficacy and safety, delivered by healthcare workers, could be effective for addressing any remaining (vaccine) hesitancy.”

    A review of studies of anti-vaccination content on social media finds “vaccine-related messages with negative sentiments had a higher number of positive reactions on social media” than pro-vaccine messages. The trend was particularly pronounced on YouTube and Instagram.

    “Certain kinds of influence operations can have measurable effects on people’s beliefs and behaviour.” This is a conclusion of a review of misinformation-related research published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. According to the review, the use of social media operations can affect both beliefs and actions, for example having a modest impact on racially motivated violence in a given area. In addition, exposure to health misinformation correlates with lower compliance with lockdown orders.

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