Hannah Ryan
(Australian Associated Press)

Most Australians fear online misinformation could stop people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine and believe that social media companies should have to share what information is being spread online, according to new polling.

The poll of 1,014 Australians was conducted in mid-December by YouGov and commissioned by Reset Australia, a group working to counter digital threats to democracy.

Eighty-five per cent of Australians agree that misleading claims on social media about the safety or effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines will discourage some Australians from being vaccinated.

And 61 per cent of those surveyed support social media companies like Facebook being forced to notify public health authorities what the most popular website pages being shared about COVID-19 are.

Greens voters are the most concerned about online misinformation, with 94 per cent agreeing that misinformation could undermine vaccine efforts.

The least worried are One Nation voters. Sixty-eight per cent believe online misinformation would discourage vaccination, and just 25 per cent support requiring social media companies to share information with the government about what posts are going viral.

“We can’t begin to plan a vaccine rollout without tackling vaccine misinformation online,” Chris Cooper, executive director of Reset Australia, said in a statement.

Mr Cooper said public health officials do not have enough visibility into what conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are going viral.

“We all know misinformation is out there, but we don’t have a bird’s eye view of the scale of the problem. Only the platforms do – which is why they need to be compelled to list the most shared content about COVID-19,” Mr Cooper said.

Reset Australia wants digital platforms to maintain a ‘Live List’, which would show the most viral URLs shared on their platforms.

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