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COVID-19 Misinformation and Polarization on Twitter: #StayHome, #Plandemic, and Health Communication

COVID-19 Misinformation and Polarization on Twitter: #StayHome, #Plandemic, and Health Communication
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Author(s): Rebecca Godard (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Susan Holtzman (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Copyright: 2021
Volume: 13
Issue: 1
Pages: 18
Source title: International Journal of Social Media and Online Communities (IJSMOC)
Editor(s)-in-Chief: Rohit Rampal (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSMOC.2021010102

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Abstract

This study investigated polarization on Twitter related to the COVID-19 pandemic by examining tweets containing #Plandemic (suggests the pandemic is a hoax) or #StayHome (encourages compliance with health recommendations). Over 35,000 tweets from over 25,000 users were collected in April 2020 and examined using sentiment and social network analyses. Compared to #StayHome tweets, #Plandemic tweets came from a more tightly connected network, were higher in negative emotional content, and could be sub-divided into specific categories of misinformation and conspiracy theories. To evaluate the stability of users' COVID-related perspectives, the prevalence of pro- and anti-mask sentiment was measured in same users' tweets approximately four months later. Results revealed substantial stability over time, with 40% of #Plandemic users tweeting anti-mask hashtags compared to just 2% of #StayHome users. Findings demonstrate COVID-related polarization on Twitter and have implications for public health interventions to quell the propagation of misinformation.

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