Does the platform matter? Social media and COVID-19 conspiracy theory beliefs in 17 countries
Theocharis, Yannis; Cardenal, Ana S; Jin, Soyeon; Aalberg, Toril; Hopmann, David Nicolas; Strömbäck, Jesper; Castro, Laia; Esser, Frank; van Aelst, Peter; de Vreese, Claes; Corbu, Nicoleta; Koc-Michalska, Karolina; Matthes, Jörg; Schemer, Christian; Sheafer, Tamir; Splendore, Sergio; Stanyer, James; Stępińska, Agnieszka; Štětka, Václav
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNew Media & Society. 2021, 1-26. 10.1177/14614448211045666
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.