COVID-19 Vaccines: Characterizing Misinformation Campaigns and Vaccine Hesitancy on Twitter

by   Karishma Sharma, et al.

Vaccine hesitancy and misinformation on social media has increased concerns about COVID-19 vaccine uptake required to achieve herd immunity and overcome the pandemic. However anti-science and political misinformation and conspiracies have been rampant throughout the pandemic. For COVID-19 vaccines, we investigate misinformation and conspiracy campaigns and their characteristic behaviours. We identify whether coordinated efforts are used to promote misinformation in vaccine related discussions, and find accounts coordinately promoting a `Great Reset' conspiracy group promoting vaccine related misinformation and strong anti-vaccine and anti-social messages such as boycott vaccine passports, no lock-downs and masks. We characterize other misinformation communities from the information diffusion structure, and study the large anti-vaccine misinformation community and smaller anti-vaccine communities, including a far-right anti-vaccine conspiracy group. In comparison with the mainstream and health news, left-leaning group, which are more pro-vaccine, the right-leaning group is influenced more by the anti-vaccine and far-right misinformation/conspiracy communities. The misinformation communities are more vocal either specific to the vaccine discussion or political discussion, and we find other differences in the characteristic behaviours of different communities. Lastly, we investigate misinformation narratives and tactics of information distortion that can increase vaccine hesitancy, using topic modeling and comparison with reported vaccine side-effects (VAERS) finding rarer side-effects are more frequently discussed on social media.


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