Online Vaccine Opposition: Identifying Trends and Contextualizing Criticism
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While there are studies that that have been done to show how content attributes of vaccinecritical websites have changed over time, there is very little discussion about the social and historical context of that criticism or the theoretical framework through which that criticism can be understood. To fully understand vaccine opposition requires knowing why that criticism exists, the context through which criticism trends arises, and why this criticism is taking place specifically online. Data with context is infinitely more valuable. The purpose of this study was to identify the current trends in vaccine opposition on the internet through an examination of the content attributes of vaccine-critical websites, to situate current criticism socially and historically, and explore the theoretical basis for criticism like this residing on the internet. In addition, it aims to broaden and deepen an earlier analysis performed by Sandra Bean in 2011. To do this, vaccine-critical websites were identified through major search engine queries and snowball-type sampling from links to additional sites off the websites previously identified. The content attributes of each website homepage were analyzed through a content analysis that utilized both the codebook used in Bean’s 2011 study as well as an expanded range of codes to better facilitate the comparison of the two. It was discovered that three content attributes appeared on more than 50 percent of the websites analyzed. One of the three attributes (“vaccines cause idiopathic illness, damage, or death”) was also found on more than 50 percent of Bean’s (2011) websites, which suggests that the attribute is part of an enduring theme in criticism. The other two attributes (“violation of civil liberties” and “informed choices”) did not appear as frequently in Bean’s (2011) study and suggest that current themes of criticism involve issues of individual freedom and bodily autonomy.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Literature review -- Theory -- Methodology -- Results and conclusions