Anti-vaccination & vaccine hesitant narratives intensify in Australian Facebook Groups
‘Anti-vaxx’ and vaccine hesitant content is both easily accessible on the leading social media platforms in Australia and on the rise.
Controversy around leading public figures such as Pete Evans and Craig Kelly spreading false and misleading information related to the pandemic have been covered widely. However, this report demonstrates that national pro-vaccine campaigns are being undermined by online disinformation and misinformation proliferating in Facebook groups.
Facebook groups are highly emotional spaces with dynamics that reflect those of peer-to-peer messaging apps, where the semi-closed nature and coming together around shared interest encourages members to express their opinion.
These groups are designed to increase engagement, with group updates giving users a new reason to check the platform regularly therefore increasing the time users interact with the platform and its content. Maintaining engagement is key to Facebook’s business model, as the longer they can keep someone scrolling, the more advertising units they can sell.
Facebook has stated that with the growth of private messaging and small groups, they intend to shift the social network more toward ‘community spaces’, with a focus on private groups. This shift in strategy - moving away from the public News Feed to push interactions in private spaces - raises concerns about the level of reliable, factually accurate information circulating in these groups.