New study: Anti-vaccination views dominate on open platforms online
“Websites which allow greater freedom of speech have a preponderance of views linking vaccines to autism.” Those views weren’t just celebrity pontifications, the authors found, but also scientific arguments offered by physicians and people with “official-sounding titles” designed to bolster their credibility.
“Fears of vaccine-induced autism are the single most important component of the message that vaccine opponents propagate, although no scientific evidence for such a link exists,”
The problem is that the Internet enables — and in some ways encourages — people to cocoon themselves in information that supports their side of the debate. As much as Vankatraman might want to spread what science has shown about vaccines and autism, he can’t inject his views onto an anti-vaxxer’s Tumblr.
As long as parents want to believe that they shouldn’t vaccinate their children, they will be able to find support for that point of view online. That’s why two state senators have introduced a bill to require every California child to be vaccinated, with no exceptions for personal beliefs (just for medical reasons). It’s a drastic step that reflects the stubbornly high rates of unvaccinated kids in many (typically wealthier) California communities.
You might think that the public would have bought into the idea of universal vaccination by now. But as Venkatraman and his colleagues observe, the same technology that’s speeding the flow of reliable information around the world is providing a megaphone to those who don’t believe it.