Russian trolls and Twitter bots amplified online vaccine debates between 2014 and 2017, a new study suggests
"They want us focused on our own problems so that we don't focus on them," expert says
Russia’s meddling online went beyond the 2016 US presidential election and into public health, amplifying online debates about vaccines, according to a new study.
The recent research project was intended to study how social media and survey data can be used to better understand people’s decision-making process around vaccines. It ended up unmasking some unexpected key players in the vaccination debate: Russian trolls.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, suggests that what appeared to be Twitter accounts run by automated bots and Russian trolls masqueraded as legitimate users engaging in online vaccine debates. The bots and trolls disseminated both pro- and anti-vaccine messages between 2014 and 2017.