Professor receives grant to study COVID-19 conspiracy theories
American Studies professor Peter Knight has received a £278,000 AHRC/UKRI grant to lead a research project entitled ‘Infodemic: Combatting COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories’.
Responding to the WHO’s warning that misinformation surrounding COVID-19 constitutes an ‘infodemic’, Professor Peter Knight has secured funding for a new research project that will focus on conspiracy theories as a particularly harmful kind of misinformation. The research will lead to improved strategies for combatting the spread of conspiracy theories in the pandemic.
The team, led by Prof Knight, together with researchers at King’s College London and the University of Amsterdam, will use methods from digital humanities and cultural studies to map how these narratives circulate in the online environment during the crisis.
They will use data scraping and network visualisation tools on a longitudinal data set extracted from social media platforms in order to identify the mechanisms, vectors and histories of transmission of coronavirus conspiracy theories. They will also employ textual analysis, digital ethnography and political economy to analyse the cultural and political contexts in which these narratives arise.
By producing a series of ‘snapshot’ mappings of this complex online ecosystem, they will be able to analyse how conspiracist misinformation has proliferated during the course of the pandemic, which in turn will enable them to assess the effectiveness of the varying interventions by the social media platforms.
The team will publish the research findings in a peer-reviewed journal article and short book. In collaboration with the anti-misinformation organisation First Draft, they will communicate their results and recommendations to journalists and the general public in a 'Field Guide to the Infodemic'.
Working with the campaigning charity Sense about Science and the Institute of Education, they will produce educational materials for teachers, young people and science communicators confronted with the problem of how to tackle the infodemic.