Does the Platform Matter? Social Media and COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory Beliefs in 17 Countries

Yannis Theocharis, Ana Sofia Cardenal, Soyeon Jin, Toril Aalberg, David Nicolas Hopmann, Jesper Strömbäck, Frank Esser, Claes H. de Vreese, Laia Castro, Peter van Aelst, Nicoleta Corbu, Karolina Koc-Michalska, Jörg Matthes, Christian Schemer, Tamir Sheafer, Sergio Splendore, James Stanyer, Agnieszka Stępińska, Václav Štětka

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

While the role of social media in the spread of conspiracy theories has received much attention, a key deficit in previous research is the lack of distinction between different types of platforms. This study places the role of social media affordances in facilitating the spread of conspiracy beliefs at the center of its enquiry. We examine the relationship between platform use and conspiracy theory beliefs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Relying on the concept of technological affordances, we theorize that variation across key features make some platforms more fertile places for conspiracy beliefs than others. Using data from a crossnational dataset based on a two-wave online survey conducted in 17 countries before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we show that Twitter has a negative effect on conspiracy beliefs—as opposed to all other platforms under examination which are found to have a positive effect.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media & Society
ISSN1461-4448
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9. Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Affordances
  • COVID-19
  • conspiracy theories
  • misperceptions
  • social media

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