Mapping the World of #FalseFlag Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

Alex Jones (L) and Paul Joseph Watson (R) in 2013. Image: Tyler Merbler/Flickr
A broad network of websites and social media accounts is creating confusion after every crisis event.

By Corin Faife | MOTHERBOARD

„Fake news“ has been around in some form for as long as there’s been any news at all, but in the social media era (and the President Trump era) it’s taken on a whole new proportion. Currently though, the term stands in for a range of different things: On the one hand stories crafted expressly for deception or financial gain, on the other, inaccurate journalism or critical views of the administration.

At the 11th International Conference on the Web and Social Media last week in Montreal, academic Kate Starbird presented a fascinating paper exploring one specific kind of social media misinformation: Conspiracy theories surrounding mass shootings. Starbird, Associate Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, has spent years studying „alternative narratives“ that spring up around man-made crisis events—shootings, bombings, etc.—and mapping the links between what she describes as an ecosystem of websites and Twitter accounts by analyzing which URLs are shared by the same users, and what different kinds of content are published by connected sites.

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