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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Social Media, Antivax Messages, Public Opinion, and Trump

This Anti-Vaxx industry, which CCDH calculates is worth a billion dollars a year to social media companies, is countered by governments, scientists and fact-based journalism, and yet Coronavirus vaccine hesitancy is growing. Tech giants realise it would be toxic if people knew how they nurture this deadly ecosystem, so they have made big claims on dealing with Coronavirus misinformation. 
For this report, we sought to verify their claims. Restless Development and CCDH trained young volunteers in how to identify misinformation. They scoured Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, recording and reporting misinformation through the platforms’ interfaces. Of the 912 posts flagged and reported by volunteers, fewer than 1 in 20 posts containing misinformation were dealt
with (4.9%).
Alongside this report, we polled US citizens’ attitudes towards a Coronavirus vaccine. The results are alarming:
The proportion of US adults who probably or definitely won’t take a Coronavirus vaccine once it is available is now 29% (it was 26% in our June polling). The proportion who don’t know if they will or not is 17%. This combines to a total of the US population who are “vaccine hesitant” of 46% (it was 41% in June).
There is a major gap in vaccine hesitancy between those who voted in 2016 for Secretary Clinton (29%) and those for President Trump (55%). This suggests a push by the President and his party to persuade their base could be valuable.
 The anti-vaxx entrepreneur Rashid Buttar has promoted a version of this conspiracy theory on his YouTube channel with half a million subscribers, saying “they are hoping that the human race becomes reliant on vaccines and antiviral medication” 
In just one video on the conspiracy channel Valuetainment with 1.8 million views, the host Patrick Ben-David allows his guest Rashid Buttar to claim that Covid is “manmade”, that the disease is part of “a depopulation agenda”, that 5G is making people ill and that vaccines are “causing autism” and “causing cancer