A measles outbreak has been occurring in multiple states in the U.S. and in Eastern and Southeastern European countries, largely due to a decline in vaccinations in children.
According to Radio Free Europe, experts in both the United States and in Europe suspect that Russian trolls may have played a role in spreading misinformation about vaccinations, causing widespread doubt about their effectiveness. These suspicions also derive from the fact that many of the more than 82,000 cases of measles occurring in Europe during the 2018 outbreak have been in countries targeted by “Russian-based disinformation campaigns.”
A specialist from the World Health Organization stated that other factors have influenced the measles outbreak, such as “complacency about the threat of the disease, the convenience of vaccination services, and confidence in health workers who carry out vaccination campaigns.”
Although experts are not entirely sure how much of an impact misinformation has had on the outbreak, experts have been working together with Russia’s Health Ministry to “develop a framework on how to study vaccination hesitancy in the context of Russian and Eastern European culture” with the results being expected to come out next year.
It was also reported that in spreading misinformation, Russian trolls would acquire followers of vulnerable subgroups and retweet messages from anti-vaccination groups “in order to gain credibility after infiltrating an anti-vaccination group.” Mainly, the troll Twitter accounts were able to promote distrust in pharmaceutical companies and as well as the idea that vaccines are unnecessary.