For our final Mis/Disinformation report in this format, we look into social media conversationsfrom two platforms – Facebook and Twitter...
Only vaccinations against Covid-19 at scale can help us defeat the virus, along with it’s continuously evolving strains. It is clear that vaccines are highly effective at protecting us against the worst effects of Covid-19 – hospitalisation and death.
While the prospect of achieving herd immunity is now too lofty a goal to aspire to, widespread vaccination is also the only way to reduce the evolution of more dangerous variants, to reduce the death rate and to eventually allow us all to return to more connected lives.
Governments have generally set (relatively modest) vaccination goals at around 70% of adults. While a range of studies suggest relatively high levels of vaccine acceptance (in some cases upwards of 70%) this has not translated into ‘jabs in arms’, and it is possible – even likely – that vaccine inertia will result in only 50-55% of adults vaccinating in the relatively near future.
There are two clear needs that can be met through our social media based research and intervention work:
- There is clear evidence that since before the vaccine was even developed, organised disinformation has and is being spread on social media, with the clear intention of undermining vaccine programmes – this on a global, regional and country specific basis.
- Aside from deliberate disinformation, knowledge gaps, understandable concerns and a palpable sense of anxiety are prevalent. Such communication campaigns that have been launched have failed to push back what at times feels like a tide of negative sentiment,
The broad goals of our Covid-19 Vaccine Inertia work are to uncover and push back against the networks that spread disinformation around the vaccine, distribute credible and factual information to counter both disinformation and concerns expressed on social media and to, through online dialogue, help address people’s worries and assist in driving vaccine demand.
- SA Vaccine Inertia Project: The project seeks to address Vaccine Inertia in South Africa. Weekly reports on disinformation, fears and concerns expressed on social media are delivered to the Demand Generation unit at the National Department of Health. Bespoke weekly reports are also provided to a range of stakeholders, including advertising agencies and the RCCE social listening team. These are also published on our website – and our in- house media team ensure that media is kept updated with regular reporting in print, radio and television. In addition a substantial dialogue team, bolstered by hundreds of volunteer dialogue facilitators is active in real time on social media, addressing concerns and pushing back against organised disinformation.
- Impact Amplifier: Project Countering Disinformation Africa will draw on advanced social media analytics, as well as academic research and subject expert matter inputs, to develop insights from which compelling, affective content will be produced and widely disseminated online across six sub-Saharan African countries (i.e. South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and Tanzania) to; (1) help promote behavioural change to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19, more specifically by (2) identifying and countering mis/disinformation relating to vaccine hesitancy. Project Countering Disinformation Africa will hence focus on; (1) seeding and catalysing behavioural change to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy narratives through compelling targeted, evidence-based behavioural change messaging.
The goal of the cluster of anti- vaccine hesitancy projects is to establish a capability that can help understand what is driving vaccine hesitancy narratives online, so that we can better; (1) understand what narratives may potentially spill over into broader society and have damaging impacts on recovery efforts, (2) act on online narratives that foster vaccine hesitancy, (3) foster resilience to vaccine hesitancy narratives in broader society, and (4) establish a footprint across Sub-Saharan Africa so that other critical thematic projects (e.g. around Climate Change) can be similarly fostered.
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