Conspiracy Theorists Are Targeting PFfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Here's How.

A stock image of the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine.
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Many disinformation campaigns create bogus notions about the vaccines by using fake accounts and real influencers to reach millions on sites likes Twitter, Reddit and 4chan, according to a recent analysis from a cyber-defense firm.

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been a target by conspiracy theorists, whose messages, which are riddled with disinformation and misinformation, were amplified on social networks in the fall and early winter of 2020, according to CBS News.

Many of these disinformation campaigns create false ideas about the vaccines and use fake accounts and real influencers that the public may be familiar with to reach millions of people on sites such as Twitter, Reddit and 4chan, according to a recent analysis from a cyber-defense firm, CBS reported.

False claims that the vaccine was delayed for political reasons was one of the COVID-19 conspiracy narratives circulating on the internet, according to Blackbird.AI, a New York tech security firm that uses artificial intelligence to combat disinformation.

Blackbird CEO Wasim Khaled explained that the algorithm their firm created analyzed posts in real-time by looking for signals that indicate activity by botnets and anti-vaccination influencers, according to CBS.

Khaled said that companies including Facebook and Twitter employ both machine-learning algorithms and human moderators to help reduce the spread of conspiracy theories, but explained that botnets, which are behind some of the misinformation spread, are not actively managed by humans, are inexpensive and easy to deploy and difficult for social networks to get rid of. 

”Bots and influencers work in tandem," Khaled told CBS. "We can't prove if they collude behind the scenes, but social media data shows clearly that they influence each other by sharing the same links, repeating the same phrases, tagging the same accounts and jumping in on trending hashtags.”

Some botnets spam out links to conspiracies by hopping on trending hashtags that then reach real influencers, Khaled said. And in some instances, hundreds of coordinated posts that include anti-vaccine and pseudoscientific claims are released around the same time, leading some to believe they're witnessing a trend catch on. 

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