Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 have accompanied the pandemic from the beginning. Crucial to managing the pandemic is mitigating the effects of misinformation, which the World Health Organization dubbed an “infodemic.”
Conspiracy theories and misinformation are global phenomena that affect people’s perceptions of other countries, yet little is understood about which COVID-19 conspiracy theories are popular on Chinese social media, how this differs from misinformation on U.S. social media, and what lessons this holds for countering global misinformation.
As researchers who study online media and public discourse, my colleagues and I examined conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19 and narratives that debunk them on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and one of the major Chinese social media platforms.
We found that popular conspiracies on Weibo about the origins of COVID-19 differ substantially from those in the U.S., with many claiming that a national…