A senior physician in charge of the U.K.’s National Health Service anti-disinformation campaign has said that language and cultural barriers could be causing people from ethnic minorities to reject the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Harpreet Sood told the BBC it was “a big concern” and officials were working hard to reach different groups “to correct so much fake news.”
Some of the disinformation is religiously targeted with messages falsely claiming the vaccines contain animal produce like pork and beef which goes against the religious beliefs of Muslims and Hindus, respectively.
The issue of language is key because most warnings about misinformation online are in a written format. Take Facebook’s adoption of new alerts supported by independent fact-checkers, for example. They warn users of fake news and to try to prevent them from sharing it unknowingly. It is certainly a step in the right direction. But text warnings can be easily misunderstood and ignored. And that’s the problem.