Social media conspiracy theories could undermine efforts to combat Zika virus, experts caution
Social media users who share conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific claims about the Zika virus may undermine upcoming efforts to keep the disease from spreading, according to a study published online today by the journal Vaccine.
The researchers behind the study—from Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and the University of Georgia—say the misinformation they detected by analyzing thousands of Twitter posts could cause many vulnerable people to refuse future Zika vaccinations.
“Once people have made up their minds about something, it’s hard for them to change their opinions,” said lead author Mark Dredze, assistant research professor of computer science and CLSP affiliate. “I’d find it surprising if this sort of story really had no impact whatsoever, and I can’t imagine it would make people more likely to pursue a healthy response.”