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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Scientific journals are easy targets of automated software that post links to social media, often with misinformation, according to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: Automated disinformation campaigns that harness legitimate scientific research could further erode the public's understanding and trust in science, particularly around COVID-19.

Driving the news: Researchers looked at 563 Facebook groups that shared links to a Danish trial, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2020, that supported mask-wearing.

  • About 39% of the posts that provided direct links to the study were in Facebook groups most affected by automation while about 9% of the Facebook groups were least affected by automation.
  • Among posts made to groups most affected by automation, about 20% claimed masks harmed the wearer and 51% made conspiratorial claims about the trial. In comparison, among groups with the least automation, 9% claimed masks harmed the wearer and 20% made conspiratorial claims about the trial.

The researchers said their findings indicated the study was likely the subject of a campaign to disseminate misinformation.

  • They recommended legislation to strengthen penalties for those behind automation, greater enforcement of rules by social media companies and counter-campaigns by health experts.

Go deeper

The anatomy of social media's mad-making machine

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Facebook and other social media companies didn't cause America's massive political divide, but they have widened it and pushed it towards violence, according to a report from New York University released Monday.

Why it matters: Congress, the Biden administration and governments around the world are moving on from blame-apportioning to choosing penalties and remedies for curbing online platforms' influence and fighting misinformation.

1 hour ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

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