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This is how you stop the spread of infection by vaccine trolls

You may have saw the update in your Facebook feed. Someone writes that he has received a dose of the Russian Sputnik vaccine – and at the end of the text the letters become Russian.

Perhaps you have also seen the Facebook picture of three fit young men with the words Pfizer, Modern and AstraZeneca – and a Russian drunk with the text Sputnik V. Or the photo montage where Prime Minister Boris Johnson turned into a monkey after taking Astra Zeneca’s vaccine.

Yes, in the West the first images have been circulating frequently for some time now – and in the East the last. All three may seem innocent, but actually fulfill the same function: They spread distrust towards the corona vaccination.

If we are to be able to return to a normal life, the vaccination must be successful in whole world, and then this kind of vaccine nationalism has no place. We Swedes benefit from Sputnik V becoming a success – in the same way that people in Russia benefit from Astra Zeneca’s success.

Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same side in the fight against the virus – and as usual, the forces of darkness are successful online. Their objectives may vary. It may be about highlighting one’s own country’s vaccine by spreading mistrust of others’. For example, the Russian media has for a long time spread scaremongering about Astra Zeneca’s vaccine.

But the dark forces could also be domestic conspiracy theorists fighting everything from vaccines to chemtrails and 5g networks – and they could be commercial troll factories making ad money from spectacular fake articles.

As more and more people are to be vaccinated, we can expect these activities to increase. The Russian drunkard and the British monkey are just a foretaste of what to expect.

In this situation you and I are not just spectators. We are to the highest degree actors. Whether it is Russian propagandists or domestic conspiracy theorists, their strategy is based on ordinary users sharing the information. Just like when it comes to the spread of the virus, it is you and I who make it possible for the propaganda to spread.

So how do you avoid becoming a digital super spreader? It’s not very difficult, and I’d say there are three simple remedies:

  1. Always check the veracity before sharing and liking anything on social media. Are you unsure? Do not!
  2. Stick to reliable sources – and get your information from many different sources to avoid ending up in a filter bubble.
  3. Use a good tone in comments and respect people who have different opinions. This is one way to reduce polarization.

I’m not asking for any mouthguards in the vaccination debate. There is every reason to criticize authorities and those in power – and no one wins by covering up the possible shortcomings of the vaccine.

But the propaganda of the vaccine trolls is something we have to guard against – and sharing pictures of Russian drunkards is as stupid as spreading pictures of British monkeys.

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