--- title: Politics of COVID-19 Misinformation tags: live-v0.1.2, misinformation permalink: https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_politics --- <!---{%hackmd FnZFg00yRhuCcufU_HBc1w %}---> {%hackmd GHtBRFZdTV-X1g8ex-NMQg %} # The politics of misinformation related to COVID-19 [TOC] In many countries, COVID-19 and measures to address it, including vaccination, have become heavily politicized with important negative effects in the public's willingness to be vaccinated and follow the WHO and government relevant guidelines. <span style="color: green">In this unit, we present findings that illustrate the politicization of Covid-19 and its disastrous effects (vaccine hesitancy, disobedience in measures like mask wearing etc.), as documented in research from all around the world. Then, we discuss the most significant factors that have contributed to this phenomenon (psychological characteristics of people, motivated misinformation by malevolent agents, conflicts of interest between countries and companies etc.). </span> # <span style="color: green"> The politicization of COVID-19: evidence and effects <span style="color: green"> A clear factor that affects beliefs and attitudes regarding Covid-19 is political ideology and partisanship. In a multi-country study conducted before Covid-19 vaccines were available, significant differences were found between countries, indicating that trust in government was a strong predictor of vaccine acceptance ([Lazarus et al., 2021](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1124-9?)): people who trust their government are much more likely to accept getting vaccinated than those who do not. Many more studies have investigated the effect of partisan differences and epistemological attitudes on vaccine hesitancy in specific countries. After almost two years since the pandemic struck, a clear consensus has been formed: political partisanship significantly affects people's beliefs regarding Covid-19 and their attitudes towards vaccine and behavioral measures, often leading to science denialism and believing in conspiracy theories.</span> ## <span style="color: green"> America In the United States, a worrisome partisan gap in perceptions regarding COVID-19 and responses to relevant government measures emerged between conservatives / republicans and progressives / democrats. For example, an analysis of over 1.1 million survey responses collected daily between April and September of 2020 found that levels of concern have come to deviate sharply between Republicans and Democrats over time, regardless of the incidence of the disease in respondents' local areas, as has individuals’ willingness to stay-at-home and reduce mobility in order to help contain the pandemic ([Clinton et al., 2020](https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/12/10/sciadv.abd7204?intcmp=trendmd-adv)). Similarly, [Calvillo et al. (2020)](https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1948550620940539) found that U.S. conservatives tended to view the virus as less severe, and often believed that the spread of the virus was a conspiracy. Similarly, a longitudinal study on COVID attitudes identified a decrease in the willingness to vaccinate among Republicans, while Democrats attitudes remained stable ([Fridman et al., 2021](https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250123)). Furthermore, belief in scientists seems to also depend on ideology, as recent research has found that the public's trust in scientists depends on their political affiliation ([Kossowska, Szwed & Czarnek, 2021, preprint](https://psyarxiv.com/hcbmw/)), with people on the political left (as opposed to the right) placing more trust in scientists. These differences seem to translate into actual outcomes: partisanship is predictive of mobility as gauged from smartphone geotracking data, with U.S. counties that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election exhibiting 14% less physical distancing in early 2020 than counties who voted for Hillary Clinton. Moreover, reduced compliance with pandemic control measures was in turn associated with higher COVID-19 infection and fatality growth rates in pro-Trump counties later in the year ([Gollwitzer et al., 2020](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-00977-7)). As for vaccine acceptance, from early on in the process (before the first vaccine was even available) evidence was accumulating that these partisan differences extended to vaccine intentions (see e.g., [Kreps et al., 2020](https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2771872)). In another study conducted before the US elections in November, it was found that the timing of a vaccine approval would have a significant effect on citizens' hesitancy: "announcing approval of a COVID-19 vaccine one week before the election compared to one week after considerably reduces both beliefs about its safety and efficacy and willingness to receive it" ([Bokemper et al., 2021](https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-95823/v1)). Indeed, an April 2021 [report by the New York Times](https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/17/us/vaccine-hesitancy-politics.html?referringSource=articleShare) provided evidence that partisan differences have been translated to lower vaccine uptake in counties in which the majority voted to re-elect former president Trump: ![](https://i.imgur.com/8NzVss9.jpg) As mentionned in the [NY Times report](https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/17/us/vaccine-hesitancy-politics.html?referringSource=articleShare), > The relationship between vaccination and politics reflects demographics. Vaccine hesitancy is highest in counties that are rural and have lower income levels and college graduation rates — the same characteristics found in counties that were more likely to have supported Mr. Trump. In wealthier Trump-supporting counties with higher college graduation rates, the vaccination gap is smaller, the analysis found, but the partisan gap holds even after accounting for income, race and age demographics, population density and a county’s infection and death rate. <img src="https://i.imgur.com/JsvGkwT.jpg" width="500"> And, even more worryingly, > The rate of full vaccination for older adults in Republican-leaning counties was 5 percent lower than the national average, the Times analysis found, but the rate for younger adults was 18 percent below average. It is an indication that the partisan divide in vaccinations may actually grow wider as younger people become eligible for the vaccine nationwide. A more [recent NYT report](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/27/briefing/covid-red-states-vaccinations.html) showed that the partisanship effect has become even more clear as "almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state": <img src="https://i.imgur.com/4W4rZpb.jpg" width="300"> This difference is also translated in deaths in blue vs red states: <img src="https://i.imgur.com/zSl1h1R.jpg" width="300"> and the pattern is even more pronounced when looking at the county level: <img src="https://i.imgur.com/Rckn6lM.jpg" width="350"> In addition, since November 2020, the poll company Civiqs has been conducting ongoing online polls with more than 135,000 answers (as of October 10th 2021). Their results highlight the severity of partisanship effects in vaccine hesitancy that surpasses other demographic factors. For instance, black and latino populations were very hesitant towards vaccinations in the beginning but this trend has disappeared since November with all races reaching a similar degree of hesitancy in March. However, white republicans seem to insist in rejecting the vaccines at a significant level, [far higher than other populations](https://www.axios.com/republicans-coronavirus-vaccine-hesitancy-023bf32f-3d68-4206-b906-4f701b87c39f.html). [You can access the results of this ongoing survey through [this link](https://civiqs.com/results/coronavirus_vaccine?annotations=true&uncertainty=true&zoomIn=true&trendline=true) and explore the interactive graphs] <span style="color: green"> Indiana University’s [Observatory on Social Media](https://mediaschool.indiana.edu/news-events/news/item.html?n=vaccine-resistance-rooted-in-ideology-new-survey-shows) has been conducting surveys on Covid beliefs in false narratives (“The CDC is hiding negative effects of COVID vaccines” and “COVID vaccines cause infertility among women.”), ideology and vaccine hesitancy and the findings show a consistent pattern: > <span style="color: green"> Survey participants who were resistant to the vaccine were more likely to be male, white, Republican and younger. They also were more likely to watch Fox News than CNN or MSNBC, and tended to favor YouTube over Twitter. <span style="color: green"> In fact, after observing the results from consecutive studies, the conclusion is daunting: "vaccine hesitancy has become vaccine resistance." </span> The appearance of the much more transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 once again highlighted the unequal danger that different groups face in the coronovirus pandemic. The populations that have suffered the most from lower income, drug problems, violence, and general lack of opportunities, are also the most likely to avoid getting vaccinated, and, as a result, the Delta variant is most likely to [hit these groups disproportionately](https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/covid-delta-variant-hints-bigger-problem-america-ncna1272673). ## <span style="color: green"> Europe In a study conducted in April 2020 in France it was found that respondents who felt close to extreme parties and those who did not feel close to any party and did not vote at the last presidential campaign were significantly more likely to refuse the vaccine compared to respondents (a) with no partisan preference but who still voted in 2017 and (b) who felt close to governing parties ([Ward et al., 2020](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33038683/)). ## <span style="color: green"> Oceania <span style="color: green"> In New Zealand, researchers found that right-wing ideology combined with mistrust in science was a strong predictor of endorsement of COVID-19 conspiracies ([Winter et al., preprint](https://psyarxiv.com/y87rm/)). <span style="color: green">In Australia, right-wing attitudes – specifically anti-egalitarianism (a preference for hierarchy and group-based inequality) and to some extent conventionalism (a preference for traditional social norms) - predicted lower perceived COVID-19 threat and less support for restrictions ([Clarke, Klas, & Dyos](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886921001094?via%3Dihub)). ## <span style="color: green"> Middle East <span style="color: green"> There is little research on the politiciazation of COVID-19 misinfomration in the Middle East. One study, for example, focuses on politically motivated state-run campaigns ([Grossman et al., 2020](https://fsi.stanford.edu/publication/twitter-facebook-egypt-uae-saudi)) whose goal is to distract the public from the government's poor response to the pandemic. Some of these campaigns include disseminating religious elements to appeal to the public while at the same time blaming any critical voices ([Jones, 2020](https://doi.org/10.1332/204378920X16020074088784)). For instance, [(Grossman et al., 2020](https://fsi.stanford.edu/publication/twitter-facebook-egypt-uae-saudi)) observe that such campaigns target specific states with the use of marketing companies in order to “push geopolitically-aligned narratives” (p. 53). Previous studies suggest some coordinated pandemic disinformation campaigns are mostly run by Iran and Saudi Arabia though Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are also involved in a more limited way ([O’Connor, 2021](https://www.isdglobal.org/isd-publications/mena-monitor-arabic-covid-19-vaccine-misinformation-online/)). </span> # <span style="color: green"> The politicization of COVID-19: contributing factors ## <span style="color: green"> 1. Misinformation and the infodemic problem <span style="color: green"> Misinformation is without a doubt a major factor that affects beliefs of people regarding COVID and attitudes towards relevant measures.</span> For instance, a survey in 5 countries showed that enhanced beliefs in misinformation was associated with reduced trust in public health guidelines, readiness to get vaccinated, or to recommend the vaccine to their friends and family ([Roozenbeek et al., 2020](https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.201199)). Similarly, in the US, a tool called [CoVaxxy](http://osome.iu.edu/tools/covaxxy), developed by the [University of Indiana](https://news.iu.edu/stories/2021/02/iub/releases/23-covaxxy-misinformation-covid-vaccine-adoption.html) has allowed its users to visualize correlations between the spread of misinformation and the percentage of a state's population unwilling to get vaccinated. The data show that Republican-majority states correlate with higher levels of hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccinations. Democratic-majority states mainly show the reverse, with higher levels of willingness to take vaccines. <span style="color: green"> There are three important questions regarding the problem of misinformation. First, how and why it is spread. Second, who and why is more likely to believe in it. Third, what can we do about it. In what follows, we briefly discuss all three of these questions. </span> ### <span style="color: green"> a) Who spreads misinformation? #### <span style="color: green"> Responsibility of public figures in spreading misinformation Much of the reach (though not necessarily the volume) of misinformation found online stems from politicians, celebrities and prominent public figures. Unfortunately, many politicians have spread misinformation without any scientific basis and without first asking for an expert opinion ([Karamouzian, 2020](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7554553/)) with former U.S. president Donald Trump's advice of injecting disinfectant as treatment being the most outrageous [Hatcher, 2020](https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0275074020941734); [Evanega et al., 2020](https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/misinformation-disinformation/evanega-et-al-coronavirus-misinformation-submitted_07_23_20-2/)). The president of Brasil, Jair Bolsonaro, has also shared unscientific claims and sentiments with the public, saying for instance that he would not be vaccinated and that vaccines can alter the DNA of people etc. This behaviour may have had catastrophic results for the indigenous people in the Amazon forest, who think that ["if the president does not get vaccinated, why would I do so?"](https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-56919424). Similarly, the French president Macron made some incorrect comments about the AstraZeneca vaccine (relating to its reduced effectiveness in eldery people, an assertion unsupported by data), which may have led to increased hesitancy of Europeans towards this particular vaccine. Coupled with the interruption of vaccinations with the Astrazeneca vaccine for some weeks in March 2021 due to a few cases of blod clots (see below), this situation made this vaccine an even more controversial subject of debate and a potential target for misinformation. As suggested in a [_Nature_ editorial in March](https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00769-7?utm_source=twt_nnc&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=naturenews): > Researchers are rightly debating the risks and benefits of the pause, but what countries don’t need is their politicians and policymakers offering opinions on safety and efficacy in parallel to the work of independent regulators. It is crucial that politicians limit themselves in discussing COVID-19 and the vaccines and instead let the experts communicate the developments to the public ([Nature editorial - March 2021](https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00769-7?utm_source=twt_nnc&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=naturenews)). #### <span style="color: green"> Malevolent agents / Vested interests **- Report on Antivaxxers** A recent report (accompanied by a petition) by the [Center for Countering Digital Hate ](https://www.counterhate.com/) (CCDH) on antivaxxers has documented that a dozen named individuals have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to spread fear, doubt, and misinformation for personal gain. These few malevolent agents are responsible for up to 70% of vaccine misinformation spread in the digital space and they constitute a small but profitable antivaxx industry with annual revenues of at least $36 million. In addition, this industry is worth up to $1.1 billion to Big Tech, with 62 million followers across their platforms. These individuals have a history of spreading baseless rumors, as well as telling outright lies, in order to undermine the public's trust in vaccines and [sell their products](https://publicintegrity.org/health/coronavirus-and-inequality/spreading-fears-cashing-in-anti-vaccine/) (books, documentaries, creams, essential oils, etc.). <span style="color: green">As detailed in [Juneja and Mitra (2021)](https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3411764.3445250), platforms such as Amazon<area>.com also benefit from this and [amplify misinformation including vaccine disinformation](https://www.isdglobal.org/isd-publications/recommended-reading-amazons-algorithms-conspiracy-theories-and-extremist-literature/). These antivaxxers do not act in isolation. They constitute a network of collaborators, who interact publicly with each other, creating a false sense of legitimacy in their self-manufactured microworld of vaccine hesitance. Per the CCDH report: "In an ***industry conference in October 2020***, anti-vaxxers met to cynically plan their strategic push. They decided to minimize the dangers of COVID-19 (a disease that, despite lockdown and massive preventative measures has killed more than 2 million people worldwide), to subvert health experts (the ones in the best place to mitigate the crisis) and to impede the vaccine in whatever ways they could, mostly by amplifying any possible doubts and side effects." Similarly, the report provides details on public interactions and endorsements between some of these agents. As reported, these modern snake-oil salesmen are the offsprings and proteges of Andrew Wakefield, and they number in the dozens. The CCDH selected 12 of the most influential, harmful and succesful antivaxxers and analyzed their practices and profits. Here are the "Disinformation Dozen": 1. **Joseph Mercola**: owner of the website Mercola.com with a net worth of $100 million according to a 2017 affidavit. 2. **Andrew Wakefield**: author of the notorious, now-retracted study that falsely linked the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) jab to autism, fled the UK after it was revealed that he had been paid £435,000 by a personal injury lawyer to help build a case against vaccine manufacturers. 3. **Robert F. Kennedy Jr**: nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, founder of Waterkeeper Alliance / World Mercury Project / Children's Health Defense, producer of the recent film "Medical Racism: The New Apartheid.”. 4. **Del Bigtree**: host of the anti-vaccine show "The Highwire", owner of Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), producer of the film "Vaxxed", funded by the Selz Foundation. 5. **Larry Cook**: founder of Facebook group "Stop Mandatory Vaccination", also enthusiastic proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory. 6. **Ty and Charlene Bollinger**: creators of the documentaries "The truth about cancer", "The truth about vaccines", and "The truth about vaccines 2020", founders of "the United Medical Freedom Super PAC". 7. **Sherri Tenpenny**: entrepreneur profiting from training an “army” of antivaxx activists 8. **Mike Adams**: conspiracy theorist, founder of "Natural News" and "Brighteon.com". 9. **Rashid Buttar**: Reprimanded osteopathic physician and anti-vaxx entrepreneur, owner of website "International Association for a Disease Free World" (IADFW). 10. **Barbara Loe Fisher**: co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), co-author of the book "DPT: A Shot in the Dark", runs “The Vaccine Reaction,” an online journal including Covid and vaccine misinformation. 11. **Sayer Ji**: Alt-health entrepreneur linking vaccines to “genocide”, founder of websites "Greenmedinfo" and "Stand for Health Freedom, author of book "Regenerate: Unlocking Your Body’s Radical Resilience Through the New Biology." 12. **Kelly Brogan**: alternative health entrepreneur and holistic psychiatrist, author of book "Own Your Self", creator of 44-day boot camp called the “Vital Mind Reset”, claims that The Gates Foundation is pursuing an agenda of “depopulation, transhumanism, and eugenics” that she resists. The CCDH report is accompanied by a petition towards the mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, to deplatform these antivaxxers as this is considered as the most effective way to limit the harm they cause. Indeed, as mentioned in the report, many of these antivaxxers have admitted that sporadic limiting measures by social media platforms have significantly impacted their reach and profits. The petition is legally based on the argument that these agents may systematically be breaking platform rules regarding declaring financial interests in promoting opinions and products. For the full CCDH report, see:[ Pandemic Profiteers](https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_00b2ad56fe524d82b271a75e441cd06c.pdf). For a recent relevant story on this topic, also see: https://publicintegrity.org/health/coronavirus-and-inequality/spreading-fears-cashing-in-anti-vaccine/. **- Political decisions affected by vested interests** Unfortunately, beyond the misinformation channels that systematically misguide the public and lead to vaccine hesitancy and resistance to measures, parties with vested interests seem to have also directly influenced political decisions with calamitous results. Specifically, [openDemocracy.net revealed](https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/tory-billionaire-bankrolled-herd-immunity-scientist-who-advised-pm-against-lockdown/) that in Autumn 2020, UK prime minister Boris Johnson had a meeting with Sunetra Gupta, an epidimiologist who has received funding from the Opel foundation (a Tory funder) and who is also an author of the Great Barrington Declaration, which most scientists and the WHO consider to be a significant source of misinformation. 24 hours later, Johnson announced that there would be no lockdown, a decision that may have resulted in an estimated 1.3 million extra COVID infections. [The BMJ](https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4716) has covered the initial secrecy of the UK government in regards to who the members of SAGE (the official scientific advisory board) are. In the same article, conflicts of interest among government advisors were discussed extensively, which must raise concerns given their pivotal role in ensuring that government policy is designed with the public's good as its first priority. <span style="color: green">**- Unknown interests** In the end of September 2021, and while schools in the UK were beginning to organize vaccinations for their pupils, [a fake consent form was disseminated](https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-nhs-letter-idUSL1N2QV1X4), designed to create doubt and instil fear in pupils and parents in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine. </span> #### <span style="color: green"> Misinformation spread through social media and news channels The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab released on February 2021 an exclusive briefing for their new report on the COVID-19 infodemic called ["Weaponized: Understanding the COVID-19 narrative arms race"](https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/covid-narrative-arms-race/). > The result of a nine-month joint research project by the DFRLab and the Associated Press, this report examines the information environments of four countries — China, Russia, Iran, and the United States — during the first six months of the COVID-19 outbreak and the false narratives that took hold there. The report focuses on how varying, unverified, and outright false narratives that the virus was a bioweapon or the result of a lab accident spread globally on social media and beyond, and the geopolitical consequences of those narratives. The full report can be found in the following link: [Weaponized-report](https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Weaponized-How-rumors-about-COVID-19s-origins-led-to-a-narrative-arms-race.pdf). A March 2021 report by the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University [Siwakoti, et al., 2021](https://esoc.princeton.edu/publications/localized-misinformation-global-pandemic-report-covid-19-narratives-around-world) provided new insight in the local and global distribution and dynamics of misinformation. They recorded 5,613 distinct misinformation stories from over 80 countries, in 35 languages. As they mention in an [article that summarizes their findings](https://thebulletin.org/2021/06/weve-analyzed-thousands-of-covid-19-misinformation-narratives-here-are-six-regional-takeaways/#.YOVaOwhF_nc): > We observed several overlapping misinformation narratives. No matter where in the world we looked, there were plenty of claims of false cures or fake home remedies, outlandish accounts of supposed government conspiracies, and reports of exaggerated case counts meant to instill fear. (...) Contrary to what one might expect from the globalized information environment, the salient themes in pandemic-related false narratives varied significantly across regions and countries; localized false narratives prevailed over global ones. In addition, an alliance of groups consisting of members of the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo movement, QAnon supporters and others has been reportedly involved in attacking the vaccination efforts through organized misinformation on the internet. As reported by the [New York Times](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/26/us/far-right-extremism-anti-vaccine.html?smid=tw-share): > In the months since inoculations started in December, the alliance grouping extremist organizations with the anti-vaccination movement has grown larger and more vocal, as conspiracy theories about vaccines proliferated while those about the presidential vote count receded. With their protests continuing, far-right groups deployed many of the same talking points as the vaccination opponents. Prominent voices in both the “Stop the Steal” and the anti-vaccination movements helped to organize scattered rallies on March 20 against vaccines, masks and social distancing in American cities including Portland, Ore., and Raleigh, N.C., as well as in Australia, Canada and other countries around the world. In April, a conference with the tagline “Learn How to Fight Back for Your Health and Freedom,” is set to bring together Trump allies like Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell along with high-profile members of the anti-vaccination effort. (...) Numerous channels link to the government website called [VAERS](https://vaers.hhs.gov/), for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, to energize followers. (...) The raw, incomplete VAERS statistics are meant for scientists and medical professionals, but are widely used among extremist groups to try to undermine confidence in the vaccine. <span style="color: green"> US president Joe Biden even [accused social media platforms like Facebook](https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jul/17/theyre-killing-people-biden-slams-facebook-for-covid-misinformation?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other) that, by allowing COVID-19 misinformation to be shared, they contribute to the deaths of people who choose to remain unvaccinated. </span> <span style="color: green"> This type of misinformation is often borne out of confusion and misunderstandings of people who try to make sense of a complex and uncertain situation. However, this is not always the case. Some misconceptions are the result of carefully tailored disinformation campaigns to reduce the public's trust in vaccines. For example, in May 2021, social media influencers revealed that they had received [offers from the marketing company Fazze, sponsored by a "secret sponsor", in order to provide the public with fake data or misleading insinuations about the death rates of vaccinated people](https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/25/influencers-say-russia-linked-pr-agency-asked-them-to-disparage-pfizer-vaccine). </span> Also, while many conspiracy theories about COVID-19 spread on social media, misinformation has sometimes been amplified by right-leaning news channels ([Motta et al., 2020](https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique/article/how-rightleaning-media-coverage-of-covid19-facilitated-the-spread-of-misinformation-in-the-early-stages-of-the-pandemic-in-the-us/6B0EB93F6BA17608D82B4D23EDA75E50)) especially in the early stages of the pandemic --- a dynamic that replicates patterns observed for political misinformation (see e.g., [Benkler et al., 2018](https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780190923624.001.0001/oso-9780190923624)). Indeed, potential sources of the partisanship effect on attitudes towards COVID-19 may be partisan differences in the communications of political elites (e.g., [Green et al., 2020](https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/6/28/eabc2717.full.pdf)), and broadcasters (e.g., [Gollwitzer et al., 2020](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-00977-7)). For example, nationalist propaganda has been combined with conspiracy theories about COVID-19 being a "tool for the great reset", a supposedly totalitarian world takeover organized by the elites. This conspiracy theory has been circulating through extreme right-wing media like Breitbart, well-known for spreading misinformation regarding climate change. Fortunately, some mainstream media seem to have realized the severity of the situation and have pointed to the increased levels of misonformation. BBC has debunked this and other misinformation relevant to COVID-19 ([The coronavirus pandemic 'Great Reset' theory and a false vaccine claim debunked](https://www.bbc.com/news/55017002)). The Guardian has also urged for an initiative among the scientific community to set the standards on what should be considered dangerous misinformation ([Covid lies cost lives](https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/27/covid-lies-cost-lives-right-clamp-down-misinformation)). ### <span style="color: green"> b) Who is more likely to believe in misinformation and why? #### <span style="color: green"> Partisanship as a predicting factor of ability to identify misinformation <span style="color: green">In many studies it has been found that a significant contributing factor to vaccine hesitancy and distorted beliefs about COVID was the inability of people to distinguish valid information from fake news, conspiracy theories and motivated misinformation. This may have to do with genuine personal characteristics and abilities but partisanship seems to be an important parameter as well. </span> [Calvillo et al. (2020)](https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1948550620940539) found that conservatism predicted less accurate discernment between real and fake COVID-19 headlines and fewer accurate responses to COVID-19 knowledge questions. Another study ([Havey, 2020](https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42001-020-00089-2)) reached similar conclusions with a focus on the use of Twitter. Some of the conspiracies that are circulated included claims that "the Chinese Communist Party, Bill Gates, and the Deep State are working in conjunction to infect the population and enact a surveillance state". <span style="color: green"> According to literature on how conspiracy theories spread </span> ([Melley, 2016](https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9781501713002/empire-of-conspiracy/#bookTabs=1)), <span style="color: green"> there seems to be a common feature shared by conspiracy theorists which is exhibiting some kind of extreme anxiety or serious concern towards issues related to health or safety. This perceived concern, which might be geniune depending on one's cultural values, lived experiences, and network, is one of the most significant elements in mistrusitng public health authorities because conspiracy theorists tend to believe that they have lost agency and power to control their surroundings. ### <span style="color: green"> c) What can we do to deal with misinformation? **- Debunking / Fact-checking** How to deal with misinformation at the organizational / institutional level is a difficult question. The BMJ released an [opinion article]((https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n272)) in February 2021 with two opposing views on whether misinformation should be penalized. The WHO and the UK government recognized the problem of misinformation and have joined forces to deal with the infodemic through [information campaigns and games that help differentiate between real and fake news](https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/fighting-misinformation-in-the-time-of-covid-19-one-click-at-a-time). One very promising and effective practice is fact-checking. All around the world, a myriad of individuals, groups and organizations try to establish strong methods to efficiently identify fake news and misinformation as fast as possible. As discussed in an article on [the Bulletin](https://thebulletin.org/2021/06/weve-analyzed-thousands-of-covid-19-misinformation-narratives-here-are-six-regional-takeaways/#.YOVaOwhF_nc): > [M]isinformation is being identified and debunked at the grassroots level by civil society organizations all over the world. Organizations such as the International Fact-Checking Network have made important progress in establishing codes of conduct and providing training for fact-checkers. The work they enable makes it easier for journalists around the world to identify and rebut falls narratives. > And a few working models have emerged for those interested in filtering their news. Newsguard carefully vets news sources and provides scores that others can use to identify trustworthy sources. The Global Disinformation Index provides site-level ratings which advertisers can use to keep their brands off known disinformation sites. Repustar is crowdsourcing analysis of key debated facts and then making the results accessible through a standard search interface, with the goal of informing interested citizens and journalists regarding specific claims. These efforts provide reason for optimism that those who want reliable news will be able to find it. The central challenge now facing policymakers and civil society actors is how to leverage the fact-checking ecosystem to better counter the spread of misinformation among those who are sympathetic to its themes and do not trust traditional sources. <span style="color: green"> To serve this purpose, the WHO has a [dedicated page](https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/how-to-report-misinformation-online) that provides guidelines on how to detect and report misinformation on social media. Similarly, the European Commission has a web page on [Tackling Coronovirus Disinformation](https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/fighting-disinformation/tackling-coronavirus-disinformation_en), and the CDC has a page on [How to Address COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation](https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/addressing-vaccine-misinformation.html). Finally, in June 2021 the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control published a report on "[Countering online vaccine misinformation in the EU/EEA.](https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/countering-online-vaccine-misinformation-eu-eea)" <span style="color: green"> An also significant and useful type of action is when scientists whose work has been misinterpreted to back conspiracy theories come out in public and discredit these theories. One such example is Andrew Read, a biologist who had published a paper in 2015 regarding chicken virus vaccine experiments. This paper discussed the possibility of vaccination contributing to the evolution of more dangerous virus variants. This conclusion was then taken out of context as an argument against COVID-19 vaccination. Read reacted promptly and published a [response article in The Conversation](https://theconversation.com/vaccines-could-affect-how-the-coronavirus-evolves-but-thats-no-reason-to-skip-your-shot-165960), explaining that there is nothing in his paper justifying an anti-vaccine stance. <span style="color: green"> Since 2015, the European Union has a dedicated taskforce whose mission is to detect, analyze, and expose systematic disinformation. Its core project is "[EU vs Disinfo](https://euvsdisinfo.eu/)", aimed at [documenting and publicly debunking conspiracy theories and misleading content](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/17/spreading-like-a-virus-inside-the-eus-struggle-to-debunk-covid-lies?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other). Alas, the taskforce did not have the budget and personnel to deal sufficiently with the tsunami of COVID-19 disinformation that took the EU by storm in 2020. **- Prebunking / inoculation** <span style="color: green"> Besides targeted fact-checking and debunking, an important alternative method is prebunking or inoculation ([Cook et al., 2017](https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0175799&xid=17259,1500004,15700022,15700124,15700149,15700186,15700191,15700201,15700237); [van der Linden et al., 2020](https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.566790/full); [Lewandowsky & van der Linden, 2021](https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10463283.2021.1876983?casa_token=kocEmtqe7voAAAAA%3A5Zq5w0DDmTJqcNLoumb4_ofaAB96kcMl6OWFqQKwQuT6HfaEKrCunC2tNf2oMJWrwC1ZtjjV4PpX)). Instead of trying to dislodge an established distorted belief from someone's mind, effort is focused on training the person to distinguish real from fake news and to be able to identify misinformation. A crucial tool in this effort are official reports provided by legitimate organizations whose goal it is to protect public health (and democratic values). For example, * <span style="color: green"> in the summer of 2021, the Surgeon General of the US published a [Surgeon General Advisory on Confronting Health Misinformation](https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-misinformation-advisory.pdf), * <span style="color: green"> in February 2021, the Atlantic Council published the report "[Weaponized: Understanding the COVID-19 narrative arms race](https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/covid-narrative-arms-race/)" * <span style="color: green"> In June 2021, the Center for Countering Digital Hate published its report "Pandemic profiteers, the business of Anti-vaxx" <span style="color: green"> **- Political governance - leadership** <span style="color: green"> Although most European countries have faced an infodemic that led to increased vaccine hesitance, reduced vaccination rates and deaths of unvaccinated people, some governments have managed to deal with this problem with incredible efficiency. [Portugal is one such example](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/01/world/europe/portugal-vaccination-rate.html?referringSource=articleShare). In Portugal, 98% of the eligible population has been vaccinated and vaccine sceptics have been very reluctant to voice their concerns. All of this seems to be owed to the leadership of Vice Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a former submarine squadron commander who was assigned to lead the vacccination plan against COVID-19. He adopted a war language, uniting people against a common enemy, COVID-19. He focused on consistently showing military and medical personnel getting vaccinated, encouraging the public to do the same. And when asked what should other countries do to deal with their problem, he was clear: "find people who are not politicians." It should, however, be noted, that there will be [cultural differences in the public's response to a military-style campaign](https://theconversation.com/calling-in-the-army-for-the-vaccine-rollout-and-every-other-emergency-shows-how-ill-prepared-we-are-162247), which may thus not universally be the ideal approach. </span> ## <span style="color: green"> 2. Identities, values, habits and solution aversion Partisanship itself may be about more than just political preferences, involving also emotion and identity (see e.g., [Huddy & Bankert, 2017](https://oxfordre.com/politics/politics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-250)), with knock-on effects on which communications about vaccines might be favourably received. ## 3. Politicization of COVID-19 vaccines: conflict of interests among countries and companies ### Politicization of delayed rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the EU Each country has been trying to secure as many vaccines, as fast as possible to inoculate its population and go back to normalcy. Pharmaceutical companies on the other hand have been in hard negotiations with each country regarding the price of the vaccines and their responsibility if something goes wrong. These factors have led to a race among countries with some gaining ground and others falling behind ([politico.eu: How Europe fell behind on vaccines](https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-coronavirus-vaccine-struggle-pfizer-biontech-astrazeneca/)). The European Union decided to [negotiate for vaccines centrally](https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/public-health/coronavirus-vaccines-strategy_en) and distribute them to each country according to its population. On the one hand, due to its larger aggregate population, EU had a greater negotiating power and managed to secure lower prices per dose for the vaccines and greater liability from the pharmaceutical companies. However, the EU had to deal with bureaucratic obstacles due to the need for coordination among 27 countries and this led to delayed approvals and agreements. Combined with some unexpected delays in vaccine production, the situation has allowed single western countries like the UK, Israel, and the US to proceed much faster with vaccinations than the EU. This has led to tension among countries and pharma companies, with EU warning pharmaceuticals with potential legal actions ([Financial Times: EU hit by delay to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine delivery](https://www.ft.com/content/3dbfe495-5947-4dd0-9f43-5edc5e6d6dc7)). EU countries like Italy and France announced in the beggining of March that they would block the export of AstraZeneca vaccines to non-EU countries due to the delayed rollout of vaccines in the EU. However, this decision was met with some [criticism by the german health minister](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/05/australia-requests-review-italy-block-astrazeneca-vaccine-export). AstraZeneca bears at least some responsibility for the decline of trust between the company and the public in EU countries. It has been documented (see for example [BMJ](https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/03/26/vaccine-wars-developing-the-astrazeneca-vaccine-was-a-triumph-but-then-things-went-wrong/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork) and [LSE](https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2021/03/25/has-the-uk-really-outperformed-the-eu-on-covid-19-vaccinations/)) that AstraZeneca favored deliveries to the UK at the expense of the EU, creating a competitive atmosphere that was further amplified by the politics of Brexit. At the same time, the delay in rollout in EU created some justified [frustration from people](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/26/coronavirus-vaccine-supply-problems-could-see-dutch-violence-repeated-in-rest-of-eu) who had been waiting to be vaccinated for months. Unfortunately, the conflicting interests of countries and people's frustration are being taken advantage of (and further fueled) by nationalistic groups and media who accuse the EU for its collective strategy and generalize the critique to a straight-up dismissal of European Union as well. Some well-known nationalist propaganda organs have spread dangerous misinformation suggesting that "EU's failure with COVID-19 vaccines" and UK's successful vaccination are an indication that EU is dysfunctional and that populations of other member states are in favour of leaving EU. ### Unequal alocation of COVID-19 vaccines Unfortunately, even though the WHO had urged governments from early on to aid in an equitable alocation of vaccines among countries and had suggested [a plan to do so](https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/access-and-allocation-how-will-there-be-fair-and-equitable-allocation-of-limited-supplies), the international community [has failed in this mission](https://reliefweb.int/report/world/unequal-vaccine-distribution-self-defeating-world-health-organization-chief-tells): > “Vaccine equity is the challenge of our time,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the gathering in opening remarks. “And we are failing.” As of September 15th 2021, just 3% of the population is vaccinated in low-income countries, while rich countries are on average at 60% ([UN report](https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1100192)). This is the result of the so-called vaccine nationalism, with rich countries electing to keep a surplus of vaccines for their own population instead of distributing them to poor countries. In fact, many countries are "[jumping on the booster bandwagon](https://www.politico.eu/article/vaccine-booster-coronavirus-covid-19-europe-delta-varian-who/)" electing to offer third doses to their citizens while the majority of poor countries remains unable to provide even one dose to its population. WHO’s Mike Ryan recently condemned countries offering boosters. > “Right now we’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket, that is the reality.” :::info You can see the current numbers regarding vaccinations at: [***Our world in data***](https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations) and [***European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control***](https://qap.ecdc.europa.eu/public/extensions/COVID-19/vaccine-tracker.html#uptake-tab). ::: ### Misinformation regarding Covid-19 vaccines in EU countries #### Oxford/AstraZeneca On the 25th of January 2021, the German newspaper _Handelsblatt_ reported that “The AstraZeneca vaccine apparently has an effectiveness of only 8% in the elderly”, based on information from an anonymous government source. Even though the number reported seems to be the result of confusion (8% of participants in the clinical trials of AstraZeneca were between 56 and 69 years of age), the newspaper has insisted that its report was correct. The confidence interval of the alleged 8% effectiveness is −1405% to 94%, which means that any attempt to infer a specific value from the small sample is meaningless. The lack of data in people over 65 led some countries to initially recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine only be administered to people of ages below 55 (or at most 64) as there was not enough data for robust statistical conclusions (full story in [the _BMJ_](https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n414)). This precautionary stance based on _absence of data_ was misinterpreted as data showing the _absence of effectiveness_ by the _Handelsblatt_ and, subsequently, the public in some European countries. <!---However, the vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca has been the source of tension between UK and some EU countries for another reason: many EU countries like Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden initially approved the vaccine only for people aged 18-64, arguing that data for older people were not sufficient to draw safe conclusions. On the other hand, [the UK government and responsible health agencies backed the company's claim](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/28/germany-recommends-oxford-astrazeneca-covid-vaccine-not-used-over-65s) that the vaccine creates a strong immune response to elderly participants and should be used to all people over 18 years old. In fact, Germany was [urged to lift the age limit for the Astrazeneca vaccine](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56227171) given the delayed rollout in EU. However, it is unfair to suggest that only EU countries adopted this guideline. [Canada](https://globalnews.ca/news/7670304/coronavirus-vaccine-astrazeneca-seniors-over-65-canada-naci/) is still reluctant to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for populations older than 65. [USA](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56242617) and [Switzerland](https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-swiss-astrazeneca-idUSL1N2KR04M) have still not authorized the vaccine at all. This situation is partly owed to mistakes from the company's part such as in the beginning of September 2020, when it failed to inform FDA about [halting its clinical trials due to a participant in Britain falling ill](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/08/business/covid-vaccine-oxford-astrazeneca.html).---> :::info **Controversy regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine** In the beginning of March 2021, [Germany](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56275342), [France](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56242617) and other EU countries announced they would extend the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 65-74 as well. Then, in the first 15 days of March 2021, there were reports of a few people developing blood clots shortly after getting vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. In response to this serious side-effect, a significant number of countries (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Italy, Latvia, France, Germany and Spain per [BMJ](https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n699) and [NBCnews](https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/covid-vaccines-blood-clots-experts-warn-little-evidence-concern-rcna416)) announced they would suspended the use of (some batches or all of) AstraZeneca vaccines until the relationship between the vaccine and the blood clots was further investigated. On the 18th and [31st of March](https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-review-very-rare-cases-unusual-blood-clots-continues), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) released a review regarding the potential relation of the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots. It concluded that: > EMA is of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects. [In the first week of April](https://www.ft.com/content/d5cd63c6-af01-4d29-a5e5-b69ade4f3803), some countries extended the suspension (Norway and Denmark) while others (Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Netherlands) [limited its use to older people](https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n883), a measure that was [the exact opposite](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/world/europe/covid-vaccines-astrazeneca-johnson-johnson.html) of the rule adopted one month before, according to which only people younger than 55 (65) should get the AstraZeneca vaccine. This could be the reason why [a different number of people was affected by blood clots in Germany and the UK](https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/apr/02/covid-further-rare-blood-clot-cases-found-in-oxford-astrazeneca-recipients). A recent Danish study ([Dinesen Østergaard et al., 2021](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00762-5/fulltext)) concluded that the proportion of vaccinated people in Europe who developed blood clots was lower than what would be expected according to the danish population proportion of years 2010-2018. Since the 20th of April, Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Philippines, Ireland, South Korea and other countries have set the age limit for the Astrazeneca vaccine at 60, while countries like Greece have set the limit much lower, at 30. Furthermore, on the 14th of April Denmark announced they would [completely cease the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine](https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56744474) due to considerations about the link with blood clots. Norway followed suit [the next day](https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/15/european-countries-express-interest-in-purchasing-denmark-s-astrazeneca-vaccines). As a result of the issues that ensued with the Astrazeneca, both in terms of proper planning and communication from the part of the company, the EU sued the company in the beginning of May 2021 and the following week announced that it would not order more vaccines from AstraZeneca beyond June. <span style="color: green"></span> A detailed history of the issues related to the AstraZeneca vaccine, blood clots and the suspension of its use may be found in this [article by _The Atlantic_](https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/03/astrazeneca-vaccine-blood-clot-issue-wont-go-away/618451/). Our [page on side effects contains further information](https://hackmd.io/@scibehC19vax/sideeffects#Blood-clots-and-the-Oxford-AstraZeneca-coronavirus-vaccine-) about the blood clotting issue relating to the AstraZeneca vaccine. ::: The different ways with which countries have dealt with the Astrazeneca vaccine have contributed to the spreading of hesitancy among European citizens. With similar considerations about blood clots in relation to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the innoculation programs of many countries are at risk of delays. In order to avoid such an increase in hesitancy, Portugal has suggested that European Union health ministers should all agree to a common lower age limit for the [Astrazeneca vaccine](https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/how-have-other-countries-responded-to-concerns-over-the-astrazeneca-vaccine-1.4536013). #### Misinformation against Pfizer/BioNTech According to the [Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/25/influencers-say-russia-linked-pr-agency-asked-them-to-disparage-pfizer-vaccine?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other), "French and German YouTubers, bloggers and influencers have been offered money by a supposedly UK-based PR agency with apparent Russian connections to falsely tell their followers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is responsible for hundreds of deaths." Screen shots of the emails were posted by [Léo Grasset](https://twitter.com/dirtybiology/status/1396720943121248257) and [Mirko Drotschman](https://twitter.com/MrWissen2Go/status/1394716050596450312), two famous science Youtubers. Behind this attempt there seems to be a significant budget with the goal to discredit the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. ### Mandatory vaccination, COVID certificate and reactions <span style="color: green"> There are many conspiracy theories about COVID certificates around the world, mostly disseminated by far-right groups. For example, the far-right in Canada has been active in spreading disinformation about the Vaccine Passport which was enacted in several provinces. Far-right groups used the Vaccine Passport as a pretext to discuss freedom of choice and other libertarian issues like "my body, my choice" and claimed that it is evidence of the Great Reset conspiracy theory or that Canada will allegedly follow China's Social Credit System. Such fringe groups used Twitter hashtags like #MakeCanadaFreeAgain and #TakeBackCanada that were trending especially during the 2021 snap federal election. For more details about the vaccine passport and certification, please see the section on [Vaccination Mandates](https://hackmd.io/@scibehC19vax/vaxmandates) in this wiki. ## 4. The politicization of COVID-19 Research **Governments and their scientific committees** In periods of crises like the current pandemic, scientists are called upon to offer their expertise to the service of the common good. Unfortunately, it has been evident that some governments and politicians have ignored scientific publications and experts' opinions or even actively tried to silence them like documented recently in the UK ([Abbasi, 2020](https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4425)). At the same time, information regarding the names and conflicts of interests of the members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was at first withheld from the public, then selectively published after pressure. In fact, information regarding the financial interests of the SAGE members is still not available ([Thacker, 2020](https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4716)). Equally problematic seems to be the way that the SAGE reccomendations are taken into account by the british government: > After the government sends questions to SAGE and gets the group’s feedback, the government then works in other considerations, such as economics, public opinion, and politics. But unlike the advice from SAGE, these other inputs that inform policy are never made public, making it impossible to know if the government has ignored scientific expertise. ([Thacker, 2020](https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4716)) Another important related issue is the presence of experts in social media who need to be aware of the effects their comments have on the general public ([Jantchou, Johnson Alegbeleye & Nguyen](http://www.iberoamericanjm.periodikos.com.br/article/5eb458b40e88252364d76ee0)). --- **We have dedicated several pages to more in-depth coverage of:** * [Misinformation about vaccination generally](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_antivax) * [Specific myths about COVID-19 misinformation](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_myths) * [Conspiracy theories](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_conspiracytheories) * [How misinformation about COVID-19 affects people's behavior](https://c19vax.scibeh.org/pages/misinfo_fallout) --- # Climate denial and COVID denial Finally, it is worth pointing out the similarities and connections between misinformation about COVID-19 and climate denial. Both groups of disinformers often discuss state regulation measures with great suspicion, sometimes opining that there is a "Deep State" conspiring against citizens to increase taxes and limit their liberties, mostly for the benefit of foreign states. Politically polarized groups often use this kind of argument on COVID-19 ([Jiang et al., 2020](https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hbe2.202)) and climate change ([Antonio & Brulle, 2011](https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01199.x)). <span style="color: green"> This political polarization around climate change and global warming discourses is particularly evident on social media. One study found that "anti-Liberal or anti-Democratic online community was more active on Twitter than the anti-conservative or anti-Republican community. Also, more than half the examined most retweeted posts contained claims about climate change being a natural cycle or even denying it exists, while about a third of these tweets stated that climate change was anthropogenic" ([Al-Rawi et al., 2021](https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2021.729818/abstract)) Also, these groups often attack climate change and COVID-19 experts in order to ridicule them and cast doubt about their scientific judgements. There are also [organizational links](https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/news/organisers-of-anti-lockdown-declaration-have-track-record-of-promoting-denial-of-health-and-environmental-risks/) between people who question COVID-19 public-health measures and climate deniers. One such connection involves the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a libertarian free-market think-tank that has a history of bogus argumentation about climate change (e.g., by denying the scientific consensus), and which has recently got into the business of [similarly bogus argumentation](https://bylinetimes.com/2020/10/09/climate-science-denial-network-behind-great-barrington-declaration/) about COVID-19 (e.g., proclaiming the pandemic to be over in April 2020). ---- <sub>Page contributors: Konstantinos Armaos, Ahmed Al-Rawi, Ulrike Hahn, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich Ecker</sub> {%hackmd GHtBRFZdTV-X1g8ex-NMQg %} {%hackmd TLvrFXK3QuCTATgnMJ2rng %} {%hackmd oTcI4lFnS12N2biKAaBP6w %}