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Saturday, February 26, 2022

Russian Disinformation Targets Antivaxxers

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  Russian trolls have spread the myth via social media.  They are also spreading other vaccine disinformation Antivaxxers are doing Putin's work for him.

Brian Contreras and Wendy Lee at LAT:
Over the last few days, researchers have warned that President Vladimir Putin’s regime is pushing, and will continue to push, false narratives aimed at justifying its aggression.

At least some of those narratives are finding purchase among an American public divided by previous waves of disinformation, said Graham Brookie, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “What we see … is not an insignificant amount of organic audience engagement from U.S. citizens that are predisposed to have their previously held beliefs reinforced by Russian disinformation.”

For instance, he said, anti-vaccine groups that are already skeptical of the U.S. government are now primed to disbelieve the official U.S. government narrative around Ukraine.

Russian “influence operations” relying on disinformation “exist at a steady state,” and have for years, added Brookie, but the ramp-up to war in Ukraine has brought “a massive surge.”

Jennifer Granston, head of insights at the social media analytics firm Zignal Labs, said the conspiracy theory that the Ukraine conflict is a government-manufactured distraction from supposed harms of COVID-19 vaccines is one of the disinformation narratives her company has monitored in recent days, along with the claim, embraced by a Russian state media outlet, that the invasion is a mere “peacekeeping mission.”