Population Control, Deadly Vaccines, and Mutant Mosquitoes: The Construction and Circulation of Zika Virus Conspiracy Theories Online

Authors

  • Scott S.D. Mitchell Carleton University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.2019v44n2a3329

Keywords:

Conspiracy theories, Frame analysis, Social network analysis, Zika, Twitter / Théories du complot, Analyse des cadres, Analyse des réseaux sociaux, Twitter

Abstract

Background  Disease outbreaks are often accompanied by sensationalist news media coverage, social media panic, and a barrage of conspiracy theories and misinformation. The Zika virus outbreak of 2015–2016 followed this pattern.

Analysis  Drawing on frame analysis, this article examines the construction and circulation of a conspiracy theory concerning the 2015–2016 Zika outbreak, analyzing the flow of misinformation across online platforms including “conspiracy” websites, online discussion threads, and Twitter.

Conclusion and implications  Conspiracy theories produced and shared on social and digital media platforms have the power to discursively construct contagious diseases such as Zika, which may fuel misguided public perceptions and impact health policy.

Contexte  Les pics épidémiques suscitent souvent une couverture médiatique sensationnaliste, la panique dans les médias sociaux et une panoplie de théories du complot et de désinformation. La flambée du virus Zika en 2015–2016 en est un exemple.

Analyse  Cet article se fonde sur une analyse des cadres pour examiner la construction et la circulation de théories du complot relatives à la flambée du Zika en 2015–2016, analysant la désinformation sur diverses plateformes en ligne, y compris des sites complotistes, des fils de discussion et Twitter.

Conclusions et implications  Les plateformes en ligne développent et partagent des théories du complot qui ont le pouvoir de décrire des maladies contagieuses telles que le Zika de manière à entraîner des perceptions publiques erronées et à influencer les politiques sur la santé.

Author Biography

Scott S.D. Mitchell, Carleton University

Scott S.D. Mitchell is a PhD student in Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, and a former newspaper columnist and writer, blogger and cartoonist with Maclean’s magazine. After completing a BSc in Biomedical Sciences, and a Master of Science with research in bioinformatics, he focused his research interests on the public communication of science, critical data studies, and risk communication.

Published

2019-06-27