IN RECENT YEARS, the United States has been confronting a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases?most notably, a measles outbreak that began in California?s Disneyland in December, spurred on by the state?s low vaccination rates. Fed up with the altogether avoidable outbreaks, several states have introduced legislation to eliminate the philosophical opt-out, a way for parents to get around public schools? vaccine requirements for their kids. As early as Tuesday, the California State Assembly will vote on SB-277, a law that would ban the so-called personal belief exemption. School boards, medical associations, and community leaders support the law.
But a small group of vocal anti-vaxxers is fighting hard to keep it from passing. This group, which leverages the power of social media, has launched a full-scale attack on the bill as it travels through the legislature. Each day, leaders craft tweets and instruct followers to disseminate them. Several senators who voted in favor of the California legislation have found themselves receiving extensive attention from the group?one, Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, has been @-mentioned (often unfavorably) in a particular Twitter hashtag more than 2,000 times since casting her vote in favor of the legislation.
One small, vocal group can have a disproportionate impact on public sentiment and legislation. Welcome to Anti-Vax Twitter.
This anti-vax activity might seem like low-stakes, juvenile propaganda. But social networking has the potential to significantly impact public perception of events?and the power to influence opinions increasingly lies with those who can most widely and effectively disseminate a message.?
Read more at?WIRED