"WHILE FACEBOOK's scale might as well be infinite, the actual universe of people arguing about vaccinations is limited and knowable," writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic in a piece that examines data about Facebook Pages and related Facebook Posts on the topic of vaccines.
Using the web-monitoring tool CrowdTangle, I analyzed the most popular posts since 2016 that contain the word vaccine. I found that a relatively small network of pages creates most of the anti-vaccine content that is widely shared. At the same time, a small network of "pro-science" pages also experiences viral success countering the anti-vax posts.
While there is no dearth of posts related to vaccines, the top 50 Facebook pages ranked by the number of public posts they made about vaccines generated nearly half (46 percent) of the top 10,000 posts for or against vaccinations, as well as 38 percent of the total likes on those posts, from January 2016 to February of this year.
The distribution is heavy on the top, particularly for the anti-vax position. Just seven anti-vax pages generated nearly 20 percent of the top 10,000 vaccination posts in this time period: Natural News, Dr. Tenpenny on Vaccines and Current Events, Stop Mandatory Vaccination, March Against Monsanto, J. B. Handley, Erin at Health Nut News, and Revolution for Choice.
"The crucial factor is the huge audience that just a few social-media platforms have gathered and made targetable through regular posts as well as advertisements," Alexis writes, and you're going to want to read the whole piece.
The point of it all?
It's actually way easier than we think for platforms to stamp out this kind of abuse.
Anti-vaccine posts coordinated in this manner by these kinds of shady entities is misinformation. It may be political or military-origin disinformation, if recent reports that Russia pushes anti-vaxx stuff online are true.
The Small, Small World of Facebook's Anti-vaxxers [www.theatlantic.com]
IMAGE: Francis R Malasig/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)