‘Does the platform matter? Social media and COVID-19 conspiracy theory beliefs in 17 countries’

Prof. Theocharis, Chair of Digital Governance, argues that 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. A new paper places the role of social media affordances in facilitating the spread of conspiracy beliefs at the center of its enquiry. They examine the relationship between platform use and conspiracy theory beliefs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Relying on the concept of technological affordances, they 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, they 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.

Theocharis, Y. et al. (2021) ‘Does the platform matter? Social media and COVID-19 conspiracy theory beliefs in 17 countries’, New Media & Society.