Vaccine safety: Russian bots and trolls stoked online debate, research findsBMJ 2018; 362 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3739 (Published 30 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3739
- Owen Dyer
Russian internet bots and trolls—including some of those indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US election—have been stoking divisions by creating fake online debate about vaccine safety, say researchers whose study looked at nearly two million Twitter messages posted from 2014 to 2017.
These efforts included a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #VaccinateUS that was entirely created by the St Petersburg based Internet Research Agency, an entity charged in a February indictment by a US grand jury.
Known Russian trolls, identified in lists compiled by the US Congress and NBC News, were over 20 times as likely as average Twitter accounts to tweet about vaccines, said researchers writing in the American Journal of Public Health.1
The lead author, David Broniatowski of George Washington University in Washington, DC, told The BMJ that the researchers, who …