Information Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows It. 2020. (accessed 8 January 2021)

Anti-vaxxers: The world fallen down the rabbit hole

02 December 2020
Volume 1 · Issue 6

We are in the middle of a new lockdown and most children and young people have weeks of remote and online learning ahead of them. As such, their use of connected devices will surge once again. It makes next month's Safer Internet Day a vital date in the education calendar (see page 265). In fact, it couldn't be more important.

This year, the day focuses on knowing just what we can trust when online. This theme will resonate with many of you in an era where misinformation online – and in particular on social media – is rife and is regularly affecting your work.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have galvanised conspiracy theorists and online trolls even more, and I have heard alarming tales of health professionals who promote public health messages finding themselves under attack on social media – regardless of their area of specialisation.

For example, a harmless tweet on a successful school-based immunisation campaign can easily become the target of relentless pandemic deniers and the dangerous anti-vaccine movements. While we can all ignore the occasional troll, the sheer volume and relentless nature of some of these attacks would shake anyone. When the same accusations and conspiracy theories spill into real life and are echoed by increasing numbers of concerned parents and young people, it can make disseminating public health messages extremely difficult.

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