Strategies against the infodemic in Brazil: Vaccine Deniers and Social Media
Brazil laments more than 500,000 Corona deaths so far. The Bolsonaro government downplayed the pandemic and took a long time to launch a vaccination campaign. Social media communication on this is now being jointly researched by the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, in Porto Alegre. The team, led by Prof. Dr. Stefan Stieglitz (UDE), wants to find out what fake news is circulating and how everyone in the Brazilian population can be provided with the correct facts about the Covid 19 vaccination. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project from the special pot „Focus Funding COVID-19“.
In the multi-ethnic state of Brazil, inequality is great. Many people live in precarious conditions, and the health care system is inadequate. The country has become a Corona hotspot, partly because President Jair Bolsonaro has promoted disinformation about COVID-19. Prof. Stieglitz’s research group will be tackling this damaging infodemic over the ,next twelve months in the SMAVAC* project: „In order to uncover misinformation, rumors and conspiracy theories, we are evaluating social media data from Twitter, Reddit and YouTube“, explains the professor of ‚Digital Communication and Transformation‘.
What stories (narratives) are being spun, are patterns discernible, and can string pullers be identified? These are the questions the researchers want to answer – and not just out of pure research interest. „It is important to us“ Stieglitz emphasizes, „to develop concrete recommendations and strategies for Brazilian health institutions so that they are more resistant to infodemias in future health crises.“ This includes how to reach indigenous populations and those in precarious living conditions, he said.
„For our Brazilian colleagues around Prof. Adriana Amaral, the collaboration with UDE and the support from the DFG is very significant. This is because the Bolsonaro government has cut or eliminated many important research grants“, explains Stieglitz. This is not the first time he has cooperated with the University of Porto Alegre. Another project already focused on the benefits of social media analytics in managing crises.
The results and SMAVAC’s strategies will be presented next year at a German-Brazilian workshop.
* Spreading the Antidote – The Framing of COVID-19 Vaccination Campaigns in the Brazilian Social Media Sphere (SMAVAC).
Prof. Dr. Stefan Stieglitz, Digital Communication and Transformation, Tel. +49 203 37 9-1341, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @rgstieglitz