What is the most viewed Wikipedia page

Conspiracy tales

Pia Lamberty

Pia Lamberty is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Social and Legal Psychology at the University of Mainz. Her research interests are conspiracy mentality and belief in conspiracy, cognitive distortions, psychological reactions to terrorism and representations of history and intergroup relationships. She has already presented various publications on the subject of conspiracy myths, also with regard to their danger to social cohesion. Among them most recently in 2020 together with Katharina Nocun: Fake Facts. How conspiracy theories guide our thinking.

Whether the belief in conspiracies has increased through social media cannot be clearly answered empirically. However, much of the content distributed there primarily appeals to emotions and contains inaccurate or incorrect information.

Corona - ... people, puzzles, questions (& copy Thomas PlaƟmann / Baaske Cartoons)

Even if Germany often has the reputation of being behind when it comes to digitization, almost 90 percent of the population is now online, and for 14 to 29 year olds it is even 100 percent. Half of those who use the Internet now use Social media-Channels like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The intensive use of these channels also has an impact on democratic participation and the culture of debate.

On the one hand, access to knowledge is lower-threshold and therefore more democratic than ever before; just a few decades ago it was much more tied to people's financial resources. On the other hand, however, this presents people with new challenges. The former chairman of Wikimedia Germany, Sebastian Moleski, wrote in the publication "The digital public: How the Internet is changing our democracy" published by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: "Before that, the challenge was to obtain sources for knowledge Today there is a much higher demand for filtering, selecting and evaluating the mostly extensive information available. "

This competence is also necessary because a considerable amount of information in social media contains false or targeted disinformation.

For example, a study published in May 2020 by scientists Heidi Oi-Yee Li, Adrian Bailey, David Huynh and James Chan from Ottawa University in Canada showed that more than a quarter of the most-viewed English-language COVID-19 videos are on YouTube Contained misleading or inaccurate information. According to another analysis published in January 2020 by Avaaz, an international social movement primarily engaged in online activism, 16 percent of the top 100 videos on YouTube that were recommended based on the search term "global warming" Misinformation about climate change.

In January 2020, a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil was presented at a specialist conference in Barcelona. It looked at YouTube's role in radicalization and had analyzed over 300,000 videos, two million recommendations and 79 million comments. The analysis showed that YouTube's recommendation system supports right-wing extremist channels. The algorithms of the video platform are designed in such a way that more and more radical content is presented - regardless of the topic.

The group had already announced in 2019 that improvements would be made to limit the spread of conspiracy stories. In addition, YouTube stated that it would put Wikipedia links under relevant videos, which should also provide information.

The problem: Videos are generally more believable and convincing and usually trigger a lot more emotions than texts. In addition, the Wikipedia articles were not written specifically to deconstruct the content of the videos. It is therefore questionable whether this attempt at the video platform will bear the desired fruits.

Whether the belief in conspiracies has increased through social media cannot be answered empirically, as there are no studies that consider the development of belief in conspiracies over a long period of time. However, it is known from various psychological studies that even a single confrontation with conspiracy narratives has consequences: People who were given conspiracy narratives in the experiment felt more distant from society afterwards, were more suspicious or, for example, less willing to have their child vaccinated - regardless of your own default setting.