Aggressive behaviour of anti-vaxxers and their toxic replies in English and Japanese

Miyazaki, Kunihiro; Uchiba, Takayuki; Tanaka, Kenji; Sasahara, Kazutoshi
Humanities and Social Sciences Communications

The anti-vaccine movement has gained traction in many countries since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, their aggressive behaviour through replies on Twitter—a form of directed messaging that can be sent beyond follow-follower relationships—is less understood, and even less is known about the language use differences of this behaviour. We conducted a comparative study of anti-vaxxers’ aggressive behaviours by analysing a longitudinal dataset of COVID-19 tweets in English and Japanese. We found two common features across these languages. First, anti-vaxxers most actively transmit targeted messages or replies to users with different beliefs, especially to neutral accounts, with significantly toxic and negative language, and these replies are often directed to posts about vaccine operations. Second, influential users with many followers and verified accounts are more likely to receive the most toxic replies from the anti-vaxxers. However, pro-vaccine accounts with a few followers receive highly toxic replies in English, which is different from the Japanese case. These results provide insights into both language-dependent and independent countermeasures against anti-vaxxers’ aggressive behaviour.