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Social media disinformation campaigns tied to vaccine hesitancy – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Social media disinformation campaigns designed to cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are contributing to vaccine hesitancy and a meaningful drop in annual coverage, a new cross-national study suggests.

Researchers examined overall Twitter use per country from 2018 to 2019 in a global database of geocoded tweets, then extracted data on 258,769 tweets related to vaccinations. They measured the sentiment of tweets using the Polyglot Python Library; assessed the aggressiveness of foreign vaccine disinformation campaigns on a 5-point scale with higher scores indicating more intense efforts. They also examined public attitudes about vaccine safety and vaccination rates for 10 common vaccine doses between 2008 and 2018.

Based on the analysis of social media activity for up to 190 countries, researchers found that each 1-point increase in efforts by foreign vaccine disinformation campaigns on social media was associated with a 15% annual increase in the number of negative tweets about vaccination.

Each 1-point increase in the foreign disinformation efforts was also associated with a mean 2-percentage-point decrease in annual vaccine coverage, and a cumulative decline of 12 percentage points across the decade-long study period, researchers report in BMJ Global Health.

“Since any and all opinions can be presented as fact, this proliferation makes it more difficult for individuals to be informed about particular issues, because truth is lost in noise,” said study co-author Steven Wilson, an assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and co-director of the Digital Society Project.

“When combined with the presence of disinformation, the effect can be creating questions about whether established facts are in fact established,” Wilson said by email. “The creation of doubt is particularly harmful when it comes to vaccination, because it is the introduction of uncertainty that causes hesitancy.”

One limitation of the study is that Twitter isn’t used in every country, and also isn’t the only social media platform used to disseminate disinformation about vaccines, the study team notes. Researchers also were not able to examine specific content of foreign disinformation campaigns or the prevalence of anti-vaccination propaganda.

“We are seeing more and more that some celebrities and social media influencers with a very large reach are sharing anti-vax material,” said Anders Hviid, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“We have also seen that anti-vax material has been featured prominently by the algorithms of Facebook, Google search and YouTube,” Hviid said by email. “This constant bombardment of misinformation will erode trust in even the most well-educated populations eventually.”

This makes it incumbent on clinicians to do what they can to provide accurate information about vaccines and stress the importance of inoculations, said study co-author Charles Shey Wiysonge, director of Cochrane South Africa, a unit of the South African Medical Research Council, based in Parow Valley, Western Cape; and a professor of global health at Stellenbosch University.

“Clinicians should adopt a patient-centered approach, for enhancing patients’ internal motivation to change by exploring and solving their own doubts,” Wiysonge said by email. “Patients should be engaged in a collaborative working relationship, which allows the patients to feel involved in the vaccination decision, in a respectful and non-judgmental atmosphere.”

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3oDuAjA BMJ Global Health, online October 23, 2020.

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Bill Barr bashed in right-wing media after election fraud comments: 'He is either a liar or a fool or both' – CNN

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Since he was confirmed as attorney general, William Barr has been somewhat of a hero in the right-wing media universe. He has assailed the Russia probe. He has talked a big game about cracking down on Antifa. He has sharply criticized the news media. On and on it goes.
But his celebrity status took a hit on Tuesday when he undercut President Trump’s brazenly false contention that there was massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. Speaking to the Associated Press, Barr said that, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The statement from Barr, which merely recited a simple fact, not only cut against what Trump has been saying, but also what Trump’s propagandists and allies in right-wing media have been feeding their audiences. For weeks, these media personalities have strung their audiences along, suggesting that damning proof of fraud was just around the corner. Which is why the comment from Barr stung so bad.
The comment effectively forced these right-wing stars to pick between acknowledging the reality Barr laid out or continuing Trump’s fantasy. Trump’s most devoted propagandists chose the latter. And so they started to throw Barr under the bus, just as they’ve done with every other conservative who has dared to contradict the president. (Think about how former conservative stars such as Jeff Sessions, Justin Amash, Paul Ryan, and others were treated when they didn’t blindly oblige Trump’s demands.)

“A liar or a fool or both”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, whose conspiratorial program is a favorite of the president, attacked Barr in brutal terms on his show. “For the attorney general of the United States to make that statement — he is either a liar or a fool or both,” Dobbs said. Dobbs then went further, suggesting Barr was “perhaps compromised.” He characterized Barr as having “appeared to join in with the radical Dems and the deep-state and the resistance.”
Dobbs wasn’t the only one. Newsmax host Greg Kelly, who has risen to fame in right-wing media circles in the last few weeks for suggesting Trump could emerge as the winner of the election, went after Barr on his show. “Some of us are wondering if he is a warrior with the Constitution or if he’s just a bureaucrat,” Kelly said. Kelly added that he “can’t believe” if Barr “looked for voter fraud he wouldn’t find any.” And Mark Levin said he “regret[ted] to say” that Barr’s comments were “misleading.”
The far-right blogs were even harsher. The Gateway Pundit, a fringe website which Trump has repeatedly promoted, published a post that said Barr had revealed himself as “totally deaf, dumb and blind.” The post went on to say that Barr’s “masquerade as someone opposed to the criminality of the Deep State” had been “exposed as a venal lie” and that he was a “fraud.” It concluded, “You either fix the damn corrupt system or we will abandon you…Our days of tolerating betrayal are over.”

Some hold fire

While Barr faced strong criticism from some notable names in right-wing media, others refrained from attacking him on Tuesday night. Notably, heavyweights Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity didn’t skewer the AG. It will be interesting over the next 24 hours if this anti-Barr narrative takes greater hold in the Trump-friendly media, or if it dissipates.

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – BarrieToday

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

The Associated Press

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

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