Actively archiving: Creating a web archive for future research into vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and public health

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  • Background Content on the web is impermanent and unstable. In an era of increasing misinformation, "fake news," and the politicization of science, it is essential to capture transient information on websites. Web archiving offers a way to capture specified websites so that they can be used in future research to understand misinformation and public discourse on topics. This poster will highlight how this specific web archive can be used by researchers and how web archives in general can be created to address other important topics. Description The Vaccination in Modern America Web Archive was collaboratively developed by librarians from two health sciences libraries whose institutions prioritize vaccine research in the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation. The poster will discuss how the web archive identifies, captures, and assigns metadata to webpages representing the current state of public discourse and contrasting approaches to authority on the topic in the United States, focusing on sites that are both pro- and anti-vaccination. The purpose of this collection is to capture potentially ephemeral information about vaccination that could be used by health services researchers, information scientists, sociologists, public health professionals, and others to understand the motivations, practices, and outcomes of health information and misinformation. Archivists provided essential expertise in web archiving. The project was approached from a public health and misinformation perspective and opposes the rhetoric of the anti-vaccination websites. Conclusions The web archive launched in February 2020. Both pro- and anti-vaccination sites were identified. “Anti” sites include those that indicate opposition or foster uncertainty about established guidelines for vaccination, as well as those that focus on chemical vaccine adjuvants or organic natural living as a replacement for vaccination. “Pro” sites include federal agency websites on vaccination and blogs on evidence-based parenting. Prominent natural living associations and not-for profits that have made anti-vaccination arguments or who have expressed sympathies to vaccine avoidance have been included to provide context around anti-vaccination information campaigns. It was not technically feasible to capture social media posts. The archive is being expanded to include pro- and anti- COVID-19 vaccination websites.
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  • 0000-0001-6084-5775
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