New York Times: Russian Trolls Used Vaccine Debate to Sow Discord, Study Finds
The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, CNN and other outlets are reporting on a new study co-authored by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers and colleagues at two other institutions, which discovered several accounts, now known to belong to the same Russian trolls who interfered in the U.S. election, as well as marketing and malware bots, tweeted about vaccines and skewed online health communications.
School of Public Health Professor Sandra Quinn (chair of the Department of Family Science) and Faculty Research Assistant Amelia Jamison were co-authors on the study that was led by George Washington University’s Dr. David Broniatowski.
Dr. Quinn is a senior associate director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity. For years she has researched vaccine acceptance in routine and emergency situations, and has published extensively on racial disparities in vaccine uptake.
The study's authors found that between 2014 and 2017 the Russian troll accounts were 22 times more likely to send vaccine-related messages than the average user.
The tweets appeared to link the debate to other divisions within American society, such as class and racial divisions, the Washington Post reports. In a New York Times story about the research, reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. points out that Russians sometimes misread their audience. Some of the bot tweets were written in a way that was not consistent with how Americans typically debate the usage of vaccines.