Facebook and WhatsApp failed but Twitter managed to curb conspiracy theories during pandemic: study


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing role of social media in spreading conspiracy theories. A number of recent studies of social behavior online have pointed to the immense power of Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to give wide reach to unverified claims. A new study has shed light on how different platforms deal with the spread of unsubstantiated reporting. He suggested that when most social media platforms amplified COVID-19 conspiracy theories during the pandemic, Twitter was able to curb them.

The study, published by Sage journals, asked people about the social media platforms they use, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube or Messenger. The researchers then posed a series of questions related to some of the most popular COVID-19-related conspiracy theories making the rounds on social media.

According to SapienJournal, study participants were asked how much they believed in the following statements:

  1. The coronavirus vaccine has already been developed, but the big pharmaceutical companies were hiding it from us to increase their profits.
  2. The coronavirus is a biological weapon created deliberately by China to harm people.
  3. The coronavirus is the accidental leak of a secret US military experiment.

Participants were asked to choose their response from these options – very sure it is wrong, fairly sure it is wrong, uncertain whether it is true or false, fairly sure it is true, and very sure it is true. ‘is right.

The researchers interviewed people from 17 countries, mostly from Europe. The results showed that people spending time on Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Messenger were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, while those on Twitter were less likely.

“On average, Twitter reduces BTC (conspiracy theory beliefs) by 3% on the conspiracy scale… The results further show that YouTube increases BTC by 2-3%, and WhatsApp by 1-2%” , said the study’s authors. .

Platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger are primarily designed to support communication between family and friends, while Twitter largely caters to interactions between strangers, the study found.

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