Synthesis produced by the Fondation Descartes of the following research paper:
Johnson, N. F., Velásquez, N., Restrepo, N. J., Leahy, R., Gabriel, N., El Oud, S., … & Lupu, Y. (2020). The online competition between pro-and anti-vaccination views. Nature, 1-4.
This article shows how discussions on the topic of vaccination are organized on Facebook. It highlights the worrying rise of anti-vaccine rhetoric, which is occupying an increasingly significant part of the discussion space.
Facebook pages are organized into communities where individuals share content and express their opinions. This study analyzed the vaccine-related exchanges of nearly 100 million individuals on 1,329 Facebook pages. The data collected allows for a better understanding of how these exchanges and interactions are structured. The 100 million users were divided into three groups: (1) the pro-vaccines; (2) the anti-vaccines; (3) the undecided. The study shows that the anti-vaccine group, although smaller in number than the pro-vaccine group, has more Facebook pages. These pages are very active and strongly connected to the undecided group, which represents almost 90% of the users concerned. In other words, the pro-vaccine position is marginalized on Facebook.
Moreover, the authors note that the anti-vaccine position is gaining ground and attracting more and more individuals from the undecided group. If this dynamic were to remain constant, the anti-vaccine group would become more important than the pro-vaccine group on Facebook as early as around 2032. The strength of the anti-vaccine group seems to lie in their ability to create extremely varied stories that can reach and convince many users from the undecided group. In addition, anti-vaccine Facebook pages are far more numerous than pro-vaccine pages. This makes it difficult to establish large-scale policies that could reach this multitude of small anti-vaccine communities. The authors call on digital platforms and the academic community to utilize this data in developing a strategy to reverse the upward trend of anti-vaccine rhetoric.