Understanding the #plandemic: Core framings on Twitter and what this tells us about countering online far right COVID-19 conspiracies
This paper examines the need and possibility for developing online resilience-based approaches in response to COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies, often linked to the far right. Examining three datasets collected between December 2020 and April 2021, this paper details conspiracy narratives that have developed around COVID-19 vaccines, with specific focus on understanding the deployment of the idea of a planned pandemic or so-called ‘#plandemic’. This is then used to consider where existing resilience-based approaches to countering off-line polarisation and extremism might posit an appropriate online response. The article identifies four key #plandemic framings of COVID-19 vaccines — as control, as reset, as unnecessary and as unsafe — and analyses how these themes are constructed, to find that they are often created through hostile and confrontational interaction with other users. Based on these findings, the conclusion suggests companies shift their focus away from ‘negative’ approaches to content moderation (e.g., content removal) and towards resilience-building responses that cultivate flexible individual identities, build community support networks, and/or engage users with national and supranational democratic structures, as a more effective response to the sharing of online conspiracies.
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