When national identity meets conspiracies: The contagion of national identity language in public engagement and discourse about COVID-19 conspiracy theories

Anfan Chen, Kaiping Chen*, Jingwen Zhang, Jingbo Meng, Cuihua Shen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are growing concerns about the role of identity narratives in spreading misinformation on social media, which threatens informed citizenship. Drawing on the social identity model of deindividualization effects (SIDE) and social identity theory, we investigate how the use of national identity language is associated with the diffusion and discourse of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China. Our results reveal a pattern of identity communication contagion in public conversations about conspiracies: national identity language usage in original posts is associated with more frequent use of such language in all subsequent conversations. Users who engaged in discussions about COVID-19 conspiracies used more national identity expressions in everyday social media conversations. By extending the SIDE model and social identity theory to misinformation studies, our article offers theoretical and empirical insight into how identity-contagious communication might exacerbate public engagement with misinformation on social media in non-Western contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzmac034
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Volume28
Issue number1
Early online date28 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication

User-Defined Keywords

  • conspiracy theories
  • national identity
  • online discourse
  • China
  • computational methods

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