The Scamdemic Conspiracy Theory and Twitter’s Failure to Moderate COVID-19 Misinformation

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Abstract

During the past few years, social media platforms have been criticized for reacting slowly to users distributing misinformation and potentially dangerous conspiracy theories. Despite policies that have been introduced to specifically curb such content, this paper demonstrates how conspiracy theorists have thrived on Twitter during the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to push vaccine and health related misinformation without getting banned. We examine a dataset of approximately 8200 tweets and 8500 Twitter users participating in discussions around the conspiracy term Scamdemic. Furthermore, a subset of active and influential accounts was identified and inspected more closely and followed for a two-month period. The findings suggest that while bots are a lesser evil than expected, a failure to moderate the non-bot accounts that spread harmful content is the primary problem, as only 12.7% of these malicious accounts were suspended even after having frequently violated Twitter’s policies using easily identifiable conspiracy terminology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 55th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationHonolulu
PublisherHawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS)
Publication date2022
ISBN (Electronic)9780998133157
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe 55th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences : HISS 2022 - Wailea, United States
Duration: 3 Jan 20226 Jan 2022
Conference number: 55
https://hicss.hawaii.edu/

Conference

ConferenceThe 55th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
Number55
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWailea
Period03/01/202206/01/2022
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
ISSN1060-3425

Keywords

  • Adversarial coordination in collaboration and social media systems
  • Covid-19
  • Misinformation
  • Network analysis
  • Twitter

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