Anti-vaxxers are specifically targeting different groups – such as ethnic minorities and parents – to dissuade them from being vaccinated, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
The report also warns that the movement has adapted far better to social media than public health bodies.
Anti-vaxxers have been running private Facebook groups to train members in identifying friends and family members who are “vaccine hesitant” and converting them into members of their movement, according to the CCDH.
One Facebook group has trained its members in targeting ethnic minorities with misinformation to discourage them from being vaccinated, according to the report.
The CCDH gained access to a private conference attended by the world’s leading anti-vaxxers.
Those in attendance are said to have expressed the view that coronavirus represents a historic opportunity for them to reach larger numbers of the public than ever before, and to create long-lasting distrust in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.
They are also said to have suggested coronavirus isn’t dangerous, vaccines are dangerous, and you can’t trust experts.
The anti-vaxxers also discussed their concerns about being removed from mainstream social media platforms, according to the CCDH.
The report found anti-vaxxers provide answering spaces online – where people who have queries are provided with misleading or false information.
The report puts size of the total audience for English-language anti-vaxxers on social media at 59.2 million, with an estimated 5.4 million followers based in the UK.
The CCDH is urging people not to engage with anti-vax misinformation online – even to rebut or criticise it.
They add doing so only spreads the misinformation to new audiences.
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The example is given of anti-vaxxer narratives “trending” on social media on the first day of the vaccine rollout, primarily due to pro-vaccine accounts amplifying them.
Instead, users are urged to share pro-vaccine messages and post about getting the coronavirus vaccine.
Imran Ahmed, CEO of the CCDH, said: “Anti-vaxxers view the COVID vaccine as an opportunity to create long-lasting distrust in the effectiveness, safety, and necessity for vaccination. Unless urgent action is taken, they may succeed.
“Currently, anti-vaxxers are permitted to organise, recruit, and spread outright lies which threaten human life to millions of people online. While the successful development of COVID vaccines was a cause for huge optimism for our ability to overcome coronavirus, that great work could be undone by this malignant Anti-Vaxx Industry of propagandists.
“It is vital that governments, social media platforms, and pro-vaccine advocates study the anti-vaxxers’ plan for the COVID vaccine, to avoid falling for their traps and do a better job of promoting the COVID vaccines as safe, vital and trustworthy developments.”
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