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29 July 2020

New AHRC funded project investigates COVID-19 conspiracy theories

AHRC project explores the WHO’s warning about an ‘infodemic’ and the harmful impact of conspiracy theories and misinformation during a global pandemic.

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Image: Shutterstock

A new project exploring COVID-19 and conspiracy theories has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) starting from 1 August 2020.

The project, Infodemic: Combatting COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories, is led by Principal Investigator, Professor Peter Knight (The University of Manchester) alongside King’s academics Dr Clare Birchall (Reader in Contemporary Culture), Dr Jonathan Gray (Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies), and Dr Liliana Bounegru (Lecturer in Digital Methods) as Co-Is.

Responding to the World Health Organisation's warning that misinformation related to COVID-19 constitutes an ‘infodemic’, the project will centre 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. It will use methods from digital humanities and cultural studies to map how narratives circulate in the online environment during the crisis.

Methods will include data scraping and network visualisation tools on a longitudinal data set extracted from social media platforms to identify the mechanisms, vectors and histories of transmission of coronavirus conspiracy theories. Researchers will also employ textual analysis, digital ethnography and political economy to analyse the cultural and political contexts within which narratives arise.

By devising a series of snapshot mappings of complex online ecosystems, the research team will examine how conspiracist misinformation has proliferated during the pandemic and assess the effectiveness of the varying interventions by social media platforms.

Find out more about King's Arts & Humanities response to COVID-19


In this story

Clare Birchall

Professor of Contemporary Culture

Jonathan W. Y. Gray

Senior Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies

Liliana  Bounegru

Lecturer in Digital Methods