Coronavirus as a Rhizome: The Pandemic of Disinformation

Coronavirus as a Rhizome: The Pandemic of Disinformation

Teija Sederholm, Petri Jääskeläinen, Aki-Mauri Huhtinen
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2021040104
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Disinformation and misinformation about COVID-19 have proliferated, particularly on social media. The purpose of this paper is to show the rhizomic nature of COVID-19-related dis- and misinformation having aspect of conspiracy theories, which are used on social media platforms to counter the official narratives about the origins of the virus. Consisting of 40 news-style articles, the data was used to find out how a conspiracy theory about the virus being a possible man-made bioweapon was presented to the audience. The results indicate that the rhizomatic structure of COVID-19 conspiracy theories makes it possible to vary the narratives based on the platform where it is published and the target audience. Information spreads in unexpected ways, and it is difficult to control or predict the spread of extremist content. This makes it possible for different actors, governments, and organizations to use information for their own purposes as a weapon of information warfare.
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Pandemic On The Internet

Is the internet, and social media in particular, becoming increasingly polarized, radicalized, and weaponized due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Yes. Acts of terrorism and other forms of extremism are presaged by comments made online in imageboards and on social media. There are many examples of research, such as Freelon et al. (2020), on the creation of so-called “sockpuppet” accounts for the dissemination of disinformation by extremist groups.

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