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Title: What Makes People Join Conspiracy Communities?: Role of Social Factors in Conspiracy Engagement
Widespread conspiracy theories, like those motivating anti-vaccination attitudes or climate change denial, propel collective action, and bear society-wide consequences. Yet, empirical research has largely studied conspiracy theory adoption as an individual pursuit, rather than as a socially mediated process. What makes users join communities endorsing and spreading conspiracy theories? We leverage longitudinal data from 56 conspiracy communities on Reddit to compare individual and social factors determining which users join the communities. Using a quasi-experimental approach, we first identify 30K future conspiracists?(FC) and30K matched non-conspiracists?(NC). We then provide empirical evidence of the importance of social factors across six dimensions relative to the individual factors by analyzing 6 million Reddit comments and posts. Specifically, in social factors, we find that dyadic interactions with members of the conspiracy communities and marginalization outside of the conspiracy communities are the most important social precursors to conspiracy joining-even outperforming individual factor baselines. Our results offer quantitative backing to understand social processes and echo chamber effects in conspiratorial engagement, with important implications for democratic institutions and online communities.
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Journal Name:
Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1 to 30
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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