Disinformation in Spain, Heidi Larson, Social Media and EU Vaccine Hesitancy: Our (first ever!) Quarterly Press Review -Episode 9

Disinformation in Spain, Heidi Larson, Social Media and EU Vaccine Hesitancy: Our (first ever!) Quarterly Press Review -Episode 9

Disinformation in Spain, Heidi Larson, Social Media and EU Vaccine Hesitancy: Our (first ever!) Quarterly Press Review

Eva & Daiva @ The Inoculation

Hi, this week we want to share some of the interesting new articles, podcasts and surveys we came across while researching disinformation. We like this format, and want to repeat it once a quarter. This is the first episode of The Inoculation's quarterly press roundup.

Here are the links for everything we talked about in the podcast: You can find episode 6 on Sputnik V here and episode 8 on vaccine geopolitics here. The story on vaccine mandates in Russia is here. In this episode, we refer to Heidi Larson's book and a profile on her, Coda Story's article on disinformation in Spain, First Draft's article on disinformation in West Africa, a Eurofound survey, and we listen to a new podcast.

Our reporting is supported by Journalismfund.eu, Media Lab Bayern and Alfred Toepfer Stiftung. Please subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts, Audible, Google Podcasts, Spotify or another platform of your choice. Follow us on Facebook as @theinoculation, on Twitter as @TInoculation, and on Instagram as @the_inoculation

Transcript (a machine helped us, so please be patient with our mistakes)

Daiva Repeckaite  0:07
We just heard a Spanish protest against COVID restrictions. Stay tuned to find out how that is linked to disinformation later in the show. Hi, diver. Hi.

Eva Schaper  0:17
So what's on our agenda for today?

Daiva Repeckaite  0:19
I was thinking of trying something new,

Eva Schaper  0:21
like what

Daiva Repeckaite  0:22
I thought, you know, we've been reading some articles lately, and I thought, why don't we just share them with our listeners?

Eva Schaper  0:29
Sir? Were you thinking of sort of a press roundup? We might just call it our quarterly press review.

Daiva Repeckaite  0:35
Yeah, that sounds great. So quality means we'll be doing this at the end of September. Yes, that

Eva Schaper  0:41
sounds about right.

Welcome to the inoculation. In this episode, we'll take a look at some articles. A new European survey on vaccine hesitancy, including how social media use is related to fears about COVID vaccines, and will also recommend a new podcast by American researchers later on in the show.

Daiva Repeckaite  1:08
Okay, so let's start. Oh, I think this is a good time to tell our listeners about our newsletter, inoculated, oh, inoculated, I

Eva Schaper  1:17
just I love that name. So we're going to be sending out our newsletter once a week. And in the newsletter, we'll curate the week's most important news on COVID disinformation. So please go to our website and sign up. Did you put the link in the show notes diver?

Daiva Repeckaite  1:37
Yes. So let's start with a bit of news that ties into our previous episode, Slovakia and Russian disinformation.

Eva Schaper  1:46
right in that episode, we saw how disinformation spread by media services linked to the Russian government might be backfiring. Isn't that right?

Daiva Repeckaite  1:56
Right. It looks like undermining trust in western vaccines undermines trust in all vaccines, right. That's what's all good. The Bravo told us. So here we have Russia moving to a vaccine mandate in a number of sectors. Authorities and for Russian regions have made Coronavirus vaccines mandatory recently for workers in some sectors.

Eva Schaper  2:16
These industries are education, health care, public transportation, beauty entertainment. So basically industries in which people are in close contact with each other.

Daiva Repeckaite  2:31
So this is a part of an effort to boost the country's low immunisation rates as COVID-19 infections continue to soar According to the Associated Press.

Eva Schaper  2:41
Exactly. And as always, the link will be in the show notes. Yes, of course. Oh, isn't it really ironic, seeing that Moscow's disinformation ever Redis was spreading false information on the virus? Just last spring? Take a listen to our episode six to hear more about it.

Daiva Repeckaite  2:59
Yes, indeed, many experts have told us so. Anyway, up next is an EU survey called Living working and COVID-19 mental health and trust the client across the US pandemic enters another year.

Eva Schaper  3:14
Okay, so very basically, the he looked at how Europeans are feeling a year into the pandemic. Okay, I'm just looking through this survey, and I see that they're covering a lot of ground. Let's just take a look at the vaccine hesitancy numbers. So the top line finding is that over a quarter of people, so one in four Europeans indicate that they might be hesitant towards COVID-19 vaccines, with men being slightly more hesitant, or most a third than women, which is a quarter. What The report also found is that there's a link with low levels of trust in government and social media use with countries that have the lowest level of trust and government also seeing higher levels of vaccine hesitancy, which kind of makes sense, doesn't it?

Daiva Repeckaite  4:12
Yeah, this is what we've been finding since we started looking at measles vaccination. Right? Right. Oh,

Eva Schaper  4:19
let's look at the numbers a bit more. So when social media is a primary source of news, the level of vaccine hesitancy goes up to 40% or four and 10. That's a lot.

Daiva Repeckaite  4:35
And a lot of people get their news from social media

Eva Schaper  4:38
where I live. What I also thought was really interesting was that some personal experience of COVID-19 such as knowing somebody who died of the disease, reduces vaccine hesitancy greatly, which also kind of makes sense. So looking at those numbers, only one in five of those who have been close to the disease? Or hesitant to take a vaccine? And for those who don't, it's almost one in three or 28%.

Daiva Repeckaite  5:11
That's really interesting. And it makes a lot of sense. Although I guess we would need to look, country by country how this plays out?

Eva Schaper  5:19
Yes, exactly. And the study is in our show notes, so you can look at how your country is doing. And speaking of social media, I stumbled across a new podcast called does not compute, which is hosted by researchers at the Centre for Information Technology and public life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I've linked to their website. So what they say this is really interesting. I think they said, there'll be talking about identity and disinformation. How do the communities that we're in shape what we search for share on social media and even believe, and how do malicious actors manipulate our identities to promote their ideologies? And what role do big tech platforms play in spreading disinformation? And how can they help address the problem?

Daiva Repeckaite  6:15
That sounds interesting.

Eva Schaper  6:16
Yes, I really think it does. And I think I'm going to be listening to that podcast.

Daiva Repeckaite  6:20
What else did you think was interesting? Oh, here's

Eva Schaper  6:22
an interesting piece by coda story titled, who is behind Spanish telegrams? storm of COVID-19. disinformation. Oh,

Daiva Repeckaite  6:32
and what could it be? Oh, I

Eva Schaper  6:34
think we know but let's take a look at the story. Okay, and looking at the story. They say that new research shows that COVID-19 scepticism in Spain has been fueled by misleading fixed stories spread online by right wing sympathisers, anti establishment activists, and conspiracy theorists. It can be traced back to a complex web of sources, including Latin American media outlets or friends in the Russian disinformation networks and Chinese dissidents. You know, this is something that we've seen in Germany too. There's been a lot of fake news and misleading information so that major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, have, you know, tried to shut down COVID-19 denialists content.

Daiva Repeckaite  7:25
That's what they call D platforming. Right.

Eva Schaper  7:27
Right, exactly. But we've also seen especially in Germany where I live, that this is just kind of moved a lot of the vaccine sceptics to the messaging service telegram so coda stories says that telegram was already popular in Spain and during the pandemic, it's become a haven for Coronavirus denialism, the Kota story report, together with a Spanish newspaper, analysed 60 channels on Spanish telegram, and they've seen that they've grown rapidly over the past year, some with hundreds of 1000s of followers. And another thing that I think is really interesting is that the volume of Spanish language content produced by Russia, Link media is massive. RT and Sputnik have a combined following of more than 26 million substantially more than their English language counterparts, which have 19 million followers, and even the Russian ones. Okay. The article also said that Spanish content attracts more interactions and engagement than in other languages, especially if it was related to Russia's Sputnik v. vaccine.

Unknown Speaker  8:44
Sputnik, our old friends, it's time to play a clip from Episode Six, isn't it? They didn't name it Sputnik for nothing, right? They're trying to win a race. Essentially.

Eva Schaper  8:57
I found some interesting research by first draft news. They looked at vaccine disinformation in West Africa, which you know, is a region we haven't talked about at all. So they did a really deep dive and found that our Russian friend pro Russian disinformation networks, and American anti science websites are pushing anti vaccine content to West African Facebook pages and groups

Daiva Repeckaite  9:29
and networks of friends. This information websites are playing a crucial role in enabling this content to reach West African social media. So it's coming from all directions.

Eva Schaper  9:40
Yes, that's what it really looks like. They also found that North American and European conspiracy theories are reaching both Anglophone and Francophone West Africa on social media. And they're a key feature of online vaccine misinformation in the region.

Daiva Repeckaite  9:56
Foreign disinformation and conspiracy theories are building on Existing anti vaccine tropes in the region. Okay,

Eva Schaper  10:03
what do they mean by tropes?

Daiva Repeckaite  10:04
So these are the stories that claim that institutions connected to vaccines can be trusted specifically that the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and Bill Gates are corrupt and are seeking to harm everyone according to their these theories.

Eva Schaper  10:23
This is interesting because mistrust and institutions is a topic that came up in the EU survey we talked about earlier, isn't it?

Daiva Repeckaite  10:31
Yeah, it keeps coming back.

Eva Schaper  10:33
What the first draft news report also found was online actress based in West Africa, are using sophisticated techniques to spread these anti vaccine conspiracy theories do they say what kind of techniques they use?

Daiva Repeckaite  10:48
Yeah, something I'd never heard before spree posting. That's an interesting term. So different web links are spread near simultaneous manner across multiple Facebook groups. And then they also have this thing called copy pasta, where multiple users copy and paste a social media post and then they republish it. And these posts in some instances spread simultaneously on multiple platforms.

Eva Schaper  11:11
Oh, it's copy pasta or real term. Let me just check. Oh, it is I've never heard of that before. That's super interesting.

Daiva Repeckaite  11:21
Yeah, it's I think, in addition to the press roundups, we will soon have to do a glossary.

Eva Schaper  11:28
Okay, and before we go, I'd like to recommend a long form portrait of Heidi Larson. In the New Yorker. It's online. The link is in our show notes, and I believe it's been taken from behind the paywall, so it's free to access which is always good to know. So Larson, who's a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studies, vaccine, rumours how they start, why some grow, why others die down. And she's been doing this for about 20 years and might be one of the people who's been studying vaccine rumours for the longest amount of time. And the article is really beautifully written and I can only recommend it as a weekend read or a vacation rate for anyone who's interested in anti vaccination. conspiracy theory is rumours and disinformation.

Daiva Repeckaite  12:22
And she has a book out

Eva Schaper  12:24
exactly if he does. It was published last year. It's called stuck. It's published by the Oxford University Press. We're linking to that page and the note so it looks like that's it for today. So yeah,

Daiva Repeckaite  12:37
so these were our recommendations for things to read and listen and think about.

Eva Schaper  12:47
Exactly, and don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter inoculated. The link is in the show notes. You can

Daiva Repeckaite  12:54
follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Our reporting is supported by journalism funded to you Media Lab biown. And to finish that, we'll be back in two weeks. Bye for now.

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