New analysis shows anti-vaccination conspiracy theories gain political weight due to social media

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Heightened use of social media during the coronavirus pandemic brought with it an unprecedented surge in the spread of misinformation. Of particular significance were conspiracy theories surrounding the virus and vaccines made to combat it. Though conspiracy theories about vaccines are not a new phenomenon, this was the first time they were observed becoming elevated to the level of national political discourse.

Published in the Journal of Computational Social Science, a new study led by researchers from the University of Tokyo shows that online political engagement, conspiracy theories and spirituality played crucial roles in shaping the anti-vaccine beliefs of different groups.

The pandemic was a world-changing event that will likely be studied from many different perspectives for a long time to come. Researchers around the world explore the impacts it had on people, institutions, health, and even the environment.

Professor Fujio Toriumi from the Department of Systems Innovation studies how public opinion forms by analyzing communications data such as news media or social networking. His group examined the phenomena of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, focusing on Japanese Twitter records, and drew some conclusions about the impacts and causes of such beliefs.

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