Monday, October 1, 2018

Health Hazard:The Spread of False News Online and the Anti-Vaccine Movement

I came across this intriguing article in Science, a comparison of the spread of true and false news online.  Using sophisticated analytic and statistical techniques, the investigators concluded that false news spreads more quickly then true news, particularly false political news.  

The spread of false news is not much impacted by bots as previously believed. False news is propagated by humans.  The reasons are not fully clear, however, false news is generally more novel than true news, suggesting that this may serve as a driver for spread.

The spread of false news is very concerning, particularly false medical news, such as vaccine misinformation

This recent publication in Vaccine, available open access here, suggests that we should change our approach to vaccine communication.  Forget debunking false conclusions as this is rarely effective.  Focus instead on integrated messages that exploit potential social networks and promote messages with positive, emotional values on immunization. This will have greater traction with the public. Novel. 

I am off to San Francisco today, for the 2018 ID Week conference. I will be participating in a debate versus my esteemed colleague Dr. John Boyce. Details can be found here.

Stay tuned.

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