Q&A: How Instagram influencers profit from anti-vaccine misinformation

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While Instagram might have a reputation for superficiality—a realm of exquisitely filtered images—it is now eclipsing other social media as a news source. The platform is increasingly filled with information, some of it pernicious and distributed via influencers.

Researchers at the University of Washington studied three prominent Instagram influencers spreading anti-vaccine misinformation as a route to profit. Each account occupies what lead author Rachel E. Moran, a UW senior research scientist at the Center for an Informed Public (CIP) and staff researcher in the Information School, calls a “slightly different corner of Instagram.”

To protect the accounts’ anonymity, the team gave each a pseudonym, substituting the account’s actual name with a generic descriptor: the Wellness Homesteader (focused on things like homeschooling and farming), the Conspiratorial Fashionista (focused on fashion) and the Evangelical Mother (focused on Christianity). What unified the three U.S.-based accounts was that, amid their varied content, each dispersed overtly conspiratorial anti-vaccine messaging and used it to sell products and services they profited from either directly or indirectly.

The team recently published its findings in the International Journal of Communication.

UW News spoke with Moran about the paper, the particular methods of Instagram influencers, and the ways “misinformation is an immensely profitable endeavor.”

Content retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2024-03-qa-instagram-profit-anti-vaccine.html.

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