What? Are Russian Trolls Saving Measles From Extinction?

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A child receives a vaccination in Ukraine, the country worst hit by Europe's measles epidemic.

Introduction by Gordon Duff with Jeffrey Silverman in Tbilisi

Jeff and I have been going over this today.  The articles began with the BBC last week, and to keep this short, we are avoiding overreacting but how can we avoid it.  This is some of the craziest propaganda we have ever seen.

I have spent the last week investigating the anti-vacc community.  We published several articles and received responses from leaders who we set the ferrets on. We found anti-vacc to be Deep State funded, direct payments, fake advertising revenue, big promotion from Google and Facebook (who now says they are banning them?).

Behind this are the crazy people, some of the nuttiest I have seen.  In Europe, the “antis” come in a variety of flavors, always a core of misinformed and undereducated frightened parents and behind this, the same intelligence agencies that gave us the Lugar Lab in Tbilisi, that spread Swine Flu and fly ISIS around like the Saudi princes that pay their bills.

The article below is from Radio Free Europe.  Many of our good friends worked for them when Russia collapsed, that or starve.  

We now see a variety of games, testing diseases, using the anti-vacc community to test manipulation and propaganda and now this:

Radio Free Europe: (Propaganda) Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis.

They say the trolls may have contributed to the 2018 outbreak of measles in Europe that killed 72 people and infected more than 82,000 — mostly in Eastern and Southeastern European countries known to have been targeted by Russia-based disinformation campaigns.

Experts in the United States and Europe are now working on ways to gauge the impact that Russian troll and bot campaigns have had on the spread of the disease by distributing medical misinformation and raising public doubts about vaccinations.

Studies have already documented how cybercampaigns by the Internet Research Agency — a St. Petersburg “troll farm” that has been accused of meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election — artificially bolstered debate on social media about vaccines since 2014 in a way that eroded public trust in vaccinations.

Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that “vaccination hesitancy” has become one of the top threats to global health.

It notes a 30 percent rise in measles globally and a resurgence of measles in countries that had once been close to eradicating the disease.

New efforts are now being launched by researchers in the United States and Europe to understand what they describe as “an incredibly complex” issue — people opting out of available vaccinations for themselves or their children.

At Duke University in North Carolina, a center for scientific health data called The Forge is working to understand and respond to medical misinformation on the Internet.

Forge director Robert Califf, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has said that medical misinformation may be “the issue of our times that demands top priority.”

He said combating misinformation campaigns about vaccines had become more complex now that research is demonstrating that a large amount of the social-media posts represent what he called “state-sponsored cyberwarfare, particularly from Russia.”

Katharina Kieslich, a political scientist at the University of Vienna, has written that “vaccination hesitancy might be explained from a political-science perspective.”

Kieslich says the pervasiveness of anti-vaccination arguments ensures that challenges will remain for policymakers and health workers trying to reach “citizens who are skeptical of vaccines.”

‘Negative Misinformation Online’

WHO vaccine specialist Katrine Habersaat tells RFE/RL that misinformation is just one factor behind a recent decline of vaccination coverage in Eastern and Southeastern European countries where there has been a resurgence of measles.

She says other factors include complacency about the threat of the disease, the convenience of vaccination services, and confidence in health workers who carry out vaccination campaigns.

In Ukraine, the country worst hit by the 2018 measles epidemic, vaccination services and supplies were also greatly reduced in 2015 and 2016 as fighting intensified between government forces and pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country.

“We actually don’t know enough about the influence of misinformation available online upon vaccination intentions and behaviors,” Habersaat says. “What we do know is that there is an element of echo chambers in this.”

“We may never know for sure, but I hope there will be more studies exploring this so we know how much we should fear or work against negative misinformation online,” she says.

Toward that goal, Habersaat says the WHO’s European regional office recently entered a “strategic relationship” with Russia’s Health Ministry. They are working together with researchers in Germany to develop a framework on how to study vaccination hesitancy in the context of Russian and Eastern European culture. The results of that study are expected in mid-2020.

Hardest Hit

If applicable, Habersaat says, that framework would be applied to WHO’s research in other countries where vaccination coverage has dropped and measles has become resurgent — including Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

“In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are many misperceptions,” Habersaat explains. “A lot of misinformation is leading parents to make decisions not to protect their children against dangerous diseases.”

In Europe, vaccination coverage is high but there are specific “pockets” of population groups in all countries that have lowered coverage, she notes.

“Over the years, the number of people in those pockets that are not protected from the disease grows,” she says. “At some point, there are enough to spread the disease. Then somebody comes by with measles and, poof, it spreads easily because there are enough people to transmit and it’s difficult to control.”

Europe's measles epidemic may have been bolstered by Russian trolls who infiltrated anti-vaccination groups.
Europe’s measles epidemic may have been bolstered by Russian trolls who infiltrated anti-vaccination groups.

Data published by the WHO at the beginning of February confirm that Eastern and Southeastern Europe bore the brunt of the 2018 measles epidemic.

Ukraine had more than 53,200 confirmed cases of measles and 15 deaths during 2018. Serbia, Russia, Georgia, and Romania were also among the worst-hit countries — collectively accounting for another 8,400 cases of measles, including 40 deaths.

WHO registered 22 deaths from measles in Romania last year, 14 in Serbia, three in Georgia, and one in Russia.

Russian Troll Campaign

David Broniatowski, a professor at George Washington University in the U.S. capital, has documented how trolls at the Internet Research Agency have amplified the vaccine debate in the United States and “eroded public consensus on vaccination” since 2014.

Broniatowski tells RFE/RL he hasn’t seen any evidence that Russia has tried to weaken Western democracies by persuading people to stop vaccinating. Rather, known trolls masqueraded as legitimate users on social media and debated vaccines as part of their strategy to promote political polarization.

“It’s a known strategy to infiltrate an interest group around a particular issue or topic and then slowly try to introduce new things into that discourse,” he explains.

After “getting access to a vulnerable subgroup and getting followers from that subgroup” on social media, Broniatowski says, the Russian trolls would get their followers to retweet messages about other issues that are in line with the Kremlin’s agenda.

They’d also retweet messages from known anti-vaccination accounts in order to gain credibility after infiltrating an anti-vaccination group.

By giving “equal time” to both pro- and anti-vaccination arguments, Broniatowski says Russian trolls and bots disproportionally helped legitimize and spread the dubious arguments of vaccine skeptics. “What we saw was the use by these Russian troll accounts of these hot-button issues like race relations and freedom of choice,” he says.

One anti-vaccination tweet by a confirmed Russian troll account declared that “mandatory #vaccines infringe on constitutionally protected religious freedoms.” Another played up the idea that the U.S. government cannot be trusted by asking, “Did you know there was a secret government database of #vaccine-damaged children?”

Broniatowski says other Russian troll tweets bolstered distrust in pharmaceutical companies and promoted “vaccine complacency” with the idea that vaccines are unnecessary because they target diseases that are relatively harmless.

Other Russian trolls played on fears by posting medical misinformation like “Natural infection almost always causes better immunity than #vaccines,” and “Did you know vaccines cause autism?”

  • 16x9 Image

    Ron Synovitz

    Ron Synovitz is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.

    and:

    How Organic Consumers Association Colludes with Russian Trolls

    At first glance, Russian trolls and the activist group Organic Consumers Association seem to have no connection whatsoever. But appearances can be deceiving.

    Far from just meddling in American democracy, Russian trolls are meddling wherever and whenever they can to cause societal strife. Radio Free Europe reports that Russian trolls may have contributed to the massive measles outbreak in Europe in 2018, which sickened 82,000 people and killed 72, by spreading anti-vaccine propaganda.

    This is consistent with stories that were reported a few months earlier, which concluded that Russian trolls were promoting pro- and anti-vaccine campaigns. Why both? Because their mission is to sow discord, chaos, and confusion. This strategy even has a name: The Gerasimov Doctrine. It’s why the promotion of all sorts of conspiracy theories (including anti-GMO propaganda) on social media can often be traced back to Russia.

    Making it all worse is the fact that the Russian trolls have accomplices, “useful idiots” you could call them, willing to help. And they’re American.

    Like Russian Trolls, the Organic Consumers Association Spreads Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

    The Organic Consumers Association is funded by the organic industry, which is built upon a foundation of lies. Evidence shows that organic food isn’t healthier for people and that organic farming isn’t better for the environment. (Actually, it’s worse for the environment.) The only substantial difference between conventional food and organic food is the price.

    Given its shaky relationship with reality, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Organic Consumers Association peddles other bizarre ideas. If you believe one conspiracy theory (namely, GMOs are poisoning everybody), then it’s not too difficult to accept other conspiracy theories. Indeed, OCA’s website pushes the sort of nonsense you might hear come from Alex Jones or InfoWars, such as 9/11 trutherism, chemtrails, and FEMA’s secret plan to implement martial law.

    Just in case that isn’t kooky enough, they also believe pesticides cause school shootings, and lo and behold, they’re anti-vaccine. On February 19, the OCA is hosting an event at the Minneapolis Club to discuss vaccines. The featured speaker is none other than notorious anti-vaxxer, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

    Collusion Between Russia and the Organic Consumers Association

    So, both Russian trolls and the Organic Consumers Association push conspiracy theories, including anti-vaccine propaganda. But the similarities don’t end there. The OCA actively colludes with the Russian propaganda machine.

    Ronnie Cummins, who heads the OCA, appeared on the propaganda outlet RT (formerly known as Russia Today) to spread misinformation about American agriculture. And Gary Ruskin, who heads the anti-GMO group U.S. Right to Know (which is funded primarily by the Organic Consumers Association), gleefully spreads RT propaganda.

    Let’s review. The Organic Consumers Association:

    • Promotes 9/11 trutherism
    • Says chemtrails are real
    • Spreads FEMA-martial law conspiracy theory
    • Claims pesticides cause school shootings
    • Promotes anti-vaxxerism
    • Colludes with Russian propagana outlets, like RT

    Vladimir Putin couldn’t be happier.

Author Details
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He is a disabled veteran and has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues.

Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than “several” countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I read this recently: $4 Billion Paid for Vaccine Injuries and Deaths – US federal vaccine damage court awards since 1989 on behalf of those who were injured or died after getting federally recommended childhood vaccines have now topped $4 billion, with claims dramatically increasing in recent years as people learn about vaccine dangers. About $1 billion of that total has been awarded to vaccine-injured victims in just the last four years. How it all got started: https://goo.gl/yxK798

    I also read: 157 Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link – Media reports have claimed that there is no scientific evidence supporting the link between vaccines and autism. Here we provide for the reader research that demonstrates links between vaccines and autism, and the mechanisms by which vaccines can cause autism. Click https://goo.gl/pxpH2V

  2. Gordon Duff is right and we can’t close our eyes on this problem. It isn’t a joke.
    I myself have repeatedly witnessed how the refusal of modern vaccinations for children was advocated in groups (Russian) in social networks. As an argument, they say that the origin of modern vaccines is unknown and children are stuffed with unknown vaccines. These are stupid people. You can even call them propagandists and criminals.
    Here is a link to an article about progressive measles in Ukraine. It is called: “The Ukraine is turning into a plague ghetto”. This is an article in Russian from the site, which is an analogue of VT. You can translate it. The article is alarming. Especially considering the fact that several million Ukrainians constantly go to work in my country and can be living biological weapons.
    https://topwar.ru/154143-ukraina-prevraschaetsja-v-chumnoe-getto.html

  3. So what are the real stories on early polio vaccines carrying cancer causing viruses and not being withdrawn from use, and the CDC hepatitis B vaccine trials spreading HIV-AIDS viruses? True or scaremongering?

    For what its worth, I came across both contentions in articles published right here on VT.

Comments are closed.