Mobile phone showing social media apps

A research project that aims to assess whether AI-based social media ‘bots’ can influence public opinion on vaccination has received an accolade.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Centre for Health Analytics was presented with a GSK Immunisation Award at the Communicable Disease & Immunisation Conference, recognising their work in differentiating between bot-generated and human-generated vaccine content online.

The award includes a $20,000 project boost and an additional $3,000 to present their latest results at next year’s conference.

The team, led by Professor Jim Buttery, has compared common, effective tools to detect which social media posts are made by AI-powered ‘bots’ instead of real users and analysed the common patterns of behaviour.

Professor Buttery said the award would enable his team to recruit a panel of experts and fact-checkers to improve on their model and effectively target the most prevalent vaccination misinformation.

“The technology surrounding generative AI is only getting better, with these programs able to mimic human conversation, generate social media posts, comment on other people’s posts and even respond to comments,” he said.

“These ‘bots’ participate in discussions about vaccines and often spread conflicting or misleading information.”

Professor Buttery said the award would also ensure that MCRI’s social bot detection efforts were aligned with the latest vaccine science.

“We know that anti-vaccine information continues to grow,” he said. It’s important that the latest evidence, science and public health information are clear and accessible, especially on social media.

“Our research team will work to track and manage the harmful effects of GenAI bots on global immunisation programs, including the manipulation of public opinion and amplification of harmful content.”

Muhammad and Ikee GSK award

Image: MCRI Dr Muhammad Javed and Gerardo Luis Dimaguila

Dr Muhammad Javed and Gerardo Luis Dimaguila (pictured) received the GSK Immunisation Award on behalf of the Centre for Health Analytics at the 2024 Communicable Disease & Immunisation Conference in Brisbane.

Read more about the key projects undertaken by the centre’s researchers.

child in hospital

Tomorrow's cures need your donations today

Donate now