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It’s widely believed that social media conspiracy theories are driven by malicious and anonymous “bots” set up by shadowy third parties. But my new research – which examined an extremely successful COVID-19 conspiracy theory – has shown that ordinary citizen accounts can be just as culpable when it comes to spreading dangerous lies and misinformation.
The pandemic has fuelled at least ten conspiracy theories this year. Some linked the spread of the disease to the 5G network, leading to phone masts being vandalised. Others argued that COVID-19 was a biological weapon. Research has shown that conspiracy theories could contribute to people ignoring social distancing rules.
And other research highlights that explaining flawed arguments and describing scientific consensus may help reduce the effect of misinformation.. Sadly, no matter what procedures and steps are put in place, there will always be people who will believe in conspiracies. The onus must be on the platforms to make sure these theories are not so easily spread.