Conspiracy theories

by Ben Page
State of the Nation

Along with the virus, this has been a splendid year for conspiracy theories. We found seven per cent who think that the whole pandemic is actually a hoax, and another 13% who think it’s a secret scheme to force mass-vaccinations on the world.

As many as three in ten think the disease was invented in a lab. Those who rely on social media for their news are far more likely to subscribe to these ideas. Of course, it’s not clear which way the causal relationship works – are those mistrusting of government and official versions of events drawn to social media to find the ‘truth’, or is it just that spending a lot of time on social media will expose you to more disinformation?

Those who rely on social media for their news are far more likely to subscribe to these ideas

Hacker hands on keyboard

As Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and one of the big guns of Silicon Valley, famously put it: “The concept of social networks, broadly speaking, as amplifiers of idiots and crazy people, was not what we intended.” He is undoubtedly correct in terms of most of the creators’ intentions, but as Douglas Adams said: “When trying to design something completely foolproof, it is wise not to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” We discuss more about the responsiblity of media outlets and platforms here.

Did you
know?

%

of Britons think coronavirus was probably created in a lab

The fact that I am even addressing this shows that conspiracy theories – especially in times of uncertainty, and when a new and threatening disease appears to be beyond our control – are always appealing: someone must be to blame. Sadly, life is far more random than some humans like to imagine.

Ben Page

Ben Page

Chief Executive