Original English article published in the American Journal of Public Health: https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305901
To report on vaccine opposition and misinformation promoted on Twitter, highlighting Twitter accounts that drive conversation.
We used supervised machine learning to code all Twitter posts. We first identified codes and themes manually by using a grounded theoretical approach and then applied them to the full data set algorithmically. We identified the top 50 authors month-over-month to determine influential sources of information related to vaccine opposition.
The data collection period was June 1 to December 1, 2019, resulting in 356 594 mentions of vaccine opposition. A total of 129 Twitter authors met the qualification of a top author in at least 1 month. Top authors were responsible for 59.5% of vaccine-opposition messages. We identified 10 conversation themes. Themes were similarly distributed across top authors and all other authors mentioning vaccine opposition. Top authors appeared to be highly coordinated in their promotion of misinformation within themes.
Public health has struggled to respond to vaccine misinformation. Results indicate that sources of vaccine misinformation are not as heterogeneous or distributed as it may first appear given the volume of messages. There are identifiable upstream sources of misinformation, which may aid in countermessaging and public health surveillance.