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September 12, 2018 Wednesday 03:57:26 PM IST

Social Media can Make or Break Conspiracy Theories

Teacher Insights

A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event. The most famous among them include assassination of John F. Kennedy, 1969 Apollo moon landings and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Recently, the social media has established itself as a conduit for more rapid spread of conspiracy theories.

After a detailed study on the 2015-16 Zika virus outbreak, researchers have concluded that Tweets intended to propagate conspiracy theories were spread through a more decentralized network than those used for debunking messages. The results of the study are published in the journal Cyber psychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

The study also observes that using Twitter to propagate conspiracy theories was more likely to involve the use of rhetorical questions and a greater number of claims with explicit references to authorities, just like in a rumor.

The study also suggests that the public health agencies could use the same social media to help alleviate anxiety and fear in the population by using these same channels to provide more accurate and reassuring messages.