As many mothers and fathers know, Facebook parenting groups are a mix of information, support, criticism, and very bad advice. However, researchers at the George Washington University have found that these groups have been infiltrated since around two years by misinformation from a different category of groups to be wary of.

While most people are well aware that social networks propagate plenty of fake news, scientists have struggled to understand how this phenomenon happens. To do it, they analyzed a total of about 100 million users in Facebook parenting groups, focusing on the health debate that erupted online in late 2020. They discovered that what started in one group tended to spread to other groups, developing a huge web of misinformation that they called "a powerful two-pronged misinformation machinery."

The more insidious was "a core of tightly bonded, yet largely under-the-radar, anti-vaccination communities that continually supplied Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation to the mainstream parenting communities". While Facebook moderators are meant to be watching for this kind of issue, the anti-vaxx groups were small enough to not even arouse their attention.

Now, what should parents do about misinformation on social media? Well, it seems that, at this point, the first thing they should do is to realize how strong can be the influence of some parenting groups, for better or for worse, for both them and their children.

Picture: Facebook Parenting Groups