Original Research

Automatically Appraising the Credibility of Vaccine-Related Web Pages Shared on Social Media: A Twitter Surveillance Study

March 17, 2019

Tools used to appraise the credibility of health information are time-consuming to apply and require context-specific expertise, limiting their use for quickly identifying and mitigating the spread of misinformation as it emerges. The aim of this study was to estimate the proportion of vaccine-related Twitter posts linked to Web pages of low credibility and measure the potential reach of those posts. Sampling from over 140,000 unique vaccine-related Web pages shared on Twitter between January 2017 and March 2018, the researchers used a seven-point checklist adapted from validated tools and guidelines to manually appraise the credibility of 470+ Web pages. The results indicate that although a small minority of low-credibility Web pages reach a large audience, low-credibility Web pages tend to reach fewer users than other Web pages overall and are more commonly shared within certain subpopulations. An automatic credibility appraisal tool may be useful for finding communities of users at higher risk of exposure to low-credibility vaccine communications.