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Fake news and pseudo-science as post-modern mythology: The case of the anti-vaccination movement

Project description

The health effects of fake news

The debate on vaccines’ role in health and disease is a rowdy one. And it’s becoming even louder today with a growing number of parents questioning the benefits of vaccination and whether they indeed outweigh the risks. Much of this uncertainty stems from fake news – unverified health information – that has proliferated online in recent years. The EU-funded FAKEOLOGY project is studying how pseudo-scientific news is disseminated online and how it affects people’s perception, thinking and behaviour. The project will combine science communication with new media analytics technologies to develop an analytic digital tool to help blow the whistle on the intentional disinformation online.

Objective

FAKEOLOGY draws links between pseudoscience, populism and health literacy and focuses on the anti-vaccination movement to provide a key venue wherein mis- and dis-information can be studied. Specifically, the project studies how pseudo-scientific news is diffused within social networks and how it affects human judgement and behaviour. FAKEOLOGY aims at enhancing the efficiency of science communication and at empowering public health policy makers to introduce fake-proof health literacy initiatives. Bridging large-scale social media data with news media (network analysis, content and discourse analysis) and behavioural data (focus groups, expert interviews, lab experiment), the project focuses on how pseudo-science propagates within the digital media ecosystem.
Pseudoscience, and, specifically, the anti-vaccination movement, demonstrate a unique case study that indicates the longevity of the ‘fake news phenomenon’ as anti-vaccine myths started spreading decades ago and still feed the movement’s narrative. The popularity of vaccine hesitancy is growing, in spite of the scientific data that systematically debunk its claims, resulting in the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Within the digital terrain, anti-vaccination groups have even grown in visibility and volume and research demonstrates that Twitter constitutes a popular platform for anti-vaccination supporters.
Using state-of-the-art media analytics technologies developed by the MIT Media Lab and building on science communication developed at the University of Zurich, the project contributes to cutting-edge research with an analytic model that can be fine-tuned to study veracity and falsity in the digital networked paradigm.

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Coordinator

UNIVERSITAT ZURICH
Net EU contribution
€ 278 840,64
Address
Ramistrasse 71
8006 Zurich
Switzerland

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Region
Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Zürich Zürich
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)