• Russian bots were used to sow divisions on vaccines, researchers say - STAT

    An analysis of Twitter accounts previously identified as having been operated by Russian bots and trolls found they dove into the vaccine debate as early as January 2015, the researchers reported. They did not take one side or the other, but seemed to tweet pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine messages in roughly equal measure.

    (…) “The more the vaccine ‘debate’… is amplified it gains an undeserved sense of legitimacy and gives vaccine-hesitant individuals a pretense to forgo vaccination for themselves and their children,” said Adalja, who was harshly critical of the use of vaccinations in efforts to turn people against each other, calling it “overtly nihilistic.”

    #nihilisme #santé #vaccins #twitter #bots (russes évidemment)

    • Le résumé de l’étude (texte complet derrière #paywall)

      Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate | AJPH | Ahead of Print


      Objectives. To understand how Twitter bots and trolls (“bots”) promote online health content.

      Methods. We compared bots’ to average users’ rates of vaccine-relevant messages, which we collected online from July 2014 through September 2017. We estimated the likelihood that users were bots, comparing proportions of polarized and antivaccine tweets across user types. We conducted a content analysis of a Twitter hashtag associated with Russian troll activity.

      Results. Compared with average users, Russian trolls (χ2(1) = 102.0; P < .001), sophisticated bots (χ2(1) = 28.6; P < .001), and “content polluters” (χ2(1) = 7.0; P < .001) tweeted about vaccination at higher rates. Whereas content polluters posted more antivaccine content (χ2(1) = 11.18; P < .001), Russian trolls amplified both sides. Unidentifiable accounts were more polarized (χ2(1) = 12.1; P < .001) and antivaccine (χ2(1) = 35.9; P < .001). Analysis of the Russian troll hashtag showed that its messages were more political and divisive.

      Conclusions. Whereas bots that spread malware and unsolicited content disseminated antivaccine messages, Russian trolls promoted discord. Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination.

      Public Health Implications. Directly confronting vaccine skeptics enables bots to legitimize the vaccine debate. More research is needed to determine how best to combat bot-driven content.

      a Twitter hashtag associated with Russian troll activity
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    • aucun #DOI ne résiste à sci-hub :)

      This analysis is supplemented by a qualitative study of #VaccinateUS — a Twitter hashtag designed to promote discord using vaccination as a political wedge issue. #VaccinateUS tweets were uniquely identified with Russian troll accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency—a company backed by the Russian government specializing in online influence operations. 20

      [20]. Popken B. Twitter deleted Russian troll tweets. So we published more than 200,000 of them. Available at: