Considering the proliferation of falsehoods and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media, this study drew upon the multi-step flow model of communication to identify opinion leaders that drive misinformation and understand how misinformation gains traction on Twitter — a platform that has amplified misinformation regarding COVID-19 and prior health crises. Using RStudio, this study conducted a social network analysis of 1,176 unique Twitter users obtained from a corpus of 56,153 tweets. The findings noted that opinion leaders who possessed popularity and social connections included socially prominent individuals (e.g., politicians, newsmakers from established organizations) and laypeople with online clout (e.g., independent activists, self-proclaimed journalists). The results supported the multi-step flow model of communication as misinformation about COVID-19 on Twitter cascaded from specific users to their social connections. Overall, the findings demonstrated the co-existence of top-down and bottom-up streams of misinformation. Theoretical contributions, practical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.
|Publication status||Published - 6 Aug 2021|
|Event||Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2021 104th Annual Conference - Virtual|
Duration: 4 Aug 2021 → 7 Aug 2021
|Conference||Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2021 104th Annual Conference|
|Abbreviated title||AEJMC 2021|
|Period||4/08/21 → 7/08/21|