In the last few weeks, media stories have intimated that the Kremlin’s propaganda is behind anti-vaccination behaviour. Foreign influence is a specialty of Propastop, so we decided to find out what was behind this idea and whether it was true.
Where is this topic written about?
Family physician Piret Rospu devotes several passages on this topic in her article „Anti-vaccination is like Russian propaganda „published in Postimees on February 19th. „Little is discussed about; however that anti-vaccination is also used to weaken national security and influence policies. For example, it has been found that a very large number of anti-vaccination postings originate from Russia in the so-called trolling factories,“ writes Karmen Joller, a family physician in her 16 February Facebook posting. The thought was echoed in the First Studio program on ETV on 21. February and repeated enthusiastically by the Minister of Health and Labour, Riina Sikkut. „ Russian trolls are inciting anti-vaccination behaviour“ states journalist Margus Parts in a Postimees article on February 23rd.
These same type of articles with the same reasoning remained in style till the fall. For example Neeme Raud wrote an article „Vaccination is now also on the battlefield of Russia’s information war“. Public relations expert, Merlis Nõgene, an activist against non-scientific theories expanded in her story „ The information war of chloride moms in neighbourhood pharmacies“ on other non-scientific pharmaceutical / medical methods. Both stories appeared in Postimees.
What is exactly is being claimed?
The most concrete stories on the subject are ones that give an overview of the discussion on vaccinations and Kremlin influence activities in the US and the UK. In these countries, activists have been identified and linked to Russian networks. The above-mentioned articles by Margus Parts and Neeme Raud refer to foreign articles, which are sourced and justified. Currently Estonia does not have any similar strategy or programs. It is apparent that stories supported by the Kremlin are not so much against vaccination, rather they are interested in initiating extreme discussions. Both supporters and opponents are supported, as long as the discussion is polarizing.
The remaining stories on anti-vaccinations are largely opinion pieces. It is not clear what exactly they are talking about when referring to the influence of the Kremlin. Occasionally referring to „Russian propagandists“ as a general metaphor – meaning that anti-vaccination groups use similar methods to the Kremlin media machine. In some paragraphs, the words are arranged to give the impression that the Russian anti-vaccination campaign is supported in Estonia as well. No direct reference, link or proof is given in these opinion articles.
Where do the anti-vaccination opinions spread in Estonia?
Anti-vaccination stories are in publications dedicated to conspiracy theories like Telegram.ee and the alternative portal Hingepeegel.ee (Mirror of the soul.ee) as well as the topic named site Vaccination.ee that gives out balanced information on the topic. Facebook has active groups such as “Ravimite ja vaktsiinide kõrvaltoimed”, “Vestlusi vaktsineerimata laste vahel” as well as “Vaktsiinikahjustustega laste vanemate ühing”. („The side effects of Pharmaceutical products and Vaccinations“, „Conversations among unvaccinated children“ as well as „The parents association of children with hurtful side effects from vaccinations“). Discussions are still circulating in several forums, such as the Family school forum.
Propastop examined the list and must admit that there were no traces of Russian influence, Kremlin trolls or cross-border discussions at least not in those media sites. There are no networks that are clearly identifiable as being linked to Russia (for example we did find referrals to the topic in #ESTexitEU ). Many discussions are with aliases, fake accounts, but these accounts do not have attributes that would associate them with our eastern neighbour.
If Propastop readers have examples or references that prove association of Estonian anti-vaccination agents with the Kremlin, please send them to the blog via e-mail, e-mail or our anonymous feedback form in the left side column of the blog.
There is a good reason to write about the Vaccination discussion and Kremlin influence in the context of the USA and Western Europe. There is no evidence of such intervention in Estonia.
Propastop invites vaccination supporters to communicate with solid evidence of vaccinations being good. It is necessary to convincingly justify vaccinations, the more the better. Otherwise, noble thoughts will seem like a campaign trick with whose help the opposition will label it as so. The accusation of the Kremlin’s influence behind the anti-vaccination movement in Estonia is too serious for it not to have proof.
Pictures: PlayStation Europe / Flickr / CC, screenshots of articles.