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Russian trolls, bots, spread disagreement about the safety of vaccines, scientists say

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Bots and Russian trolls spreading false information about vaccines on Twitter in order to sow discord and the spread of malicious content prior to and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a new study.

Scientists of the discovery during research into how social media communication for the public health of workers can be improved.

According to the researchers, the Russian trolls played from both sides, and tweeting pro – and anti-vaccine content.

“These trolls seem to be with vaccination, as a wedge issue, the promotion of discord in the American society,” Mark Dredze, a member of the team and professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, who was involved in the research, told the Guardian.

In tweeting both pro – and anti-vaccine information, the Russian trolls are able to erode the public confidence in vaccination on the borders.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health and comes as Europe is confronted with a large outbreak of measles, which is partly due to the declining vaccination rates.

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There were 41,000 cases of measles in Europe in the first half of 2018, more than all of the 2017, the British publication reports.

“The vast majority of Americans believe that vaccines are safe and effective, but if you look on Twitter gives the impression that there’s a lot of debate,” David Broniatowsky, an assistant professor in the George Washington’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, said.

(Reuters)

The trolls allegedly tried to link vaccination and other problems in the US, such as race and religion, and even focus on the legitimacy of the government.

“Accounts, disguised as legitimate users generate false equivalence, eroding public consensus on vaccination,” the researchers concluded.

Scientists examined a sample of 1.7 million tweets collected in the period July 2014 to September 2017, and that was a crucial moment during the presidential campaign. To determine the bots, they compared the speed with which the regular users tweeted about the vaccines with the speed of bots and trolls do.

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Broniatowski told the Guardian that bots tweeted about vaccines, about once every 550 tweets, versus once every 12,000 tweets for human accounts.

Social media companies continue to face a backlash over the treatment of fake accounts and misinformation. Both Twitter and Facebook have removed accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a so-called troll farm connected with the Russian government. Last week, Facebook removed another 650 accounts linked to Russia and Iran, and that the spread of misinformation.

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.

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