Polarizing tweets by Russian trolls on vaccination targeted groups in 2016

During the 2016 election cycle, politically polarizing tweets about vaccination included pro- and anti-vaccination messages targeted at people with specific political inclinations by Russian trolls using an assortment of fake persona types, according to a study published in March.

The study encompassed more than 2.8 million tweets published by 2,689 accounts operated by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) from 2015-17. Researchers identified nine types of the trolls personas, from fake Black Lives Matters activists to fake boosters of Donald Trump, and examined the extent to which those persona types discussed and played into ideas about vaccination, and how they did so.

The analysis, by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Georgia State University, and the University at Buffalo, SUNY, was published in the American Journal of Public Health as “Russian Twitter Accounts and the Partisan Polarization of Vaccine Discourse, 2015-2017.”

“We demonstrate how IRA accounts discussed vaccines not only to sow discord among people of the United States but also to flesh out the personalities of their ‘American’ accounts in a credible way,” the researchers write.

Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.