Anti-inflammatories evaded content bans on social media by replacing the word ‘vaccine’ with a carrot emoji, according to a BBC investigation

Anti-inflammatories evaded content bans on social media by replacing the word ‘vaccine’ with a carrot emoji, according to a BBC investigation

Doctors give a person a vaccine against COVID-19.

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

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

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

  • The shot glass emoji was also used to replace the word “shot” and obsolete vaccines.

Groups sharing unfounded claims that people are being 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 ruse allowed them to continue unhindered to publish content that the networks had vowed to eliminate.

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

The group’s rules said: “Use code words for everything” and “Don’t use the c word, v word or b word ever” to mean “COVID”, “vaccine” or “booster”, according to the BBC.

The trend was also noticed by Marc Owen Jones, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in 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 “apparently to avoid censorship. Very strange”.

According to a screen handle shared by Jones in a tweetthe group admin stated that they would remove any posts that are not coded and that “coding is important and carrots to date have not been caught by AI censors”.

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

An image of the carrot emoji.

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

The BBC flagged the group using the emojis as code to Facebook’s parent company Meta, which took them down.

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

Some groups re-emerged shortly after being removed, according to the BBC.

An earlier report by Politifact found other tactics used to prevent automated surveillance, for example using deliberate misspellings such as writing “Seedy Sea” and “Eff Dee Aye” instead of CDC and FDA.

The BBC also found examples of posts using the unicorn emoji or the V-shaped symbol for the astrological sign of Aries as a basis for the word “vaccine”.

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

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

Rachel Moran, a researcher who studies COVID-19 disinformation at the University of Washington, told Politifact that coding presents a downside: Because it’s harder to understand, banned information still travels more slowly than if it was in plain english.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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