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Anti-vaxxers evaded social media content bans by replacing the word ‘vaccine’ with a carrot emoji, BBC investigation finds

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A person administers a COVID-19 vaccine,.Markus Schreiber/AP Photo

  • Anti-vaxxers use emojis to avoid detection by social media algorithms, according to a BBC investigation.

  • A large Facebook group has used the carrot emoji to replace the word vaccine, according to the BBC.

  • The shot glass emoji has also been used to replace the word “shot” and denigrate vaccines.

Groups sharing baseless claims that people are hurt or killed by vaccines are avoiding social media bans on anti-vaxx content by using the carrot emoji, a BBC investigation has found.

According to the BBC, several social media groups were using the emoji as code for the word “vaccine”. The simple trick allowed them to continue unimpeded to publish content that the networks had pledged to eradicate.

A Facebook group using the code, which the BBC did not name, had more than 250,000 members.

The group’s rules stated: “Use code words for everything” and “Never use the c-word, the v-word or the b-word” meaning “COVID”, “vaccine” or “booster”, depending on the BBC.

The trend was also noticed by Marc Owen Jones, assistant professor of Middle East studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar, who studies disinformation. The BBC said Jones was invited to the large Facebook group.

He said in a Twitter thread on Sunday the carrot emoji symbol was used to replace the word vaccine “presumably to evade censorship. Very strange.”

From a screenshot shared by Jones in a tweetthe group’s admin said he would delete all unencrypted posts and that “coding is important and the carrots to this day are not picked up by AI censors”.

Another image shared by Jones showed the shot glass emoji used to replace the word “shot”, although he did not specify where the image was taken.

A picture of the carrot emoji.

A representation of the carrot emoji.Turqay Melikli/Getty images

The BBC reported the group using the emojis as code to Facebook parent company Meta, which removed them.

“We have removed this group for breaching our harmful misinformation policies and will review any other similar content in accordance with this policy. We continue to work closely with public health experts and the UK government to further tackle misinformation about Covid vaccines,” Meta said in a statement to the BBC.

Some groups reappeared shortly after being deleted, according to the BBC.

A previous Politifact report found other tactics used to thwart automated moderation, such as using deliberate misspellings like writing “Seedy Sea” and “Eff Dee Aye” instead of CDC and FDA.

The BBC has also found examples of posts using the unicorn emoji or the V-shaped symbol for Aries star signs as substitutes for the word “vaccine”.

Other examples of emoji-based coding include using them to get away with posting racial slurs.

Emojis are harder for algorithms to understand because they’re trained on text-based platforms like Wikipedia or books, said Hannah Rose Kirk, a social data science student at the Oxford Internet Institute, in a 2021 blog post. .

Rachel Moran, a researcher who studies COVID-19 misinformation at the University of Washington, previously told Politifact that coding has a downside: Because it’s harder to understand, forbidden information always travels slower. than if they were in plain English.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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