Chapter 5 A Web of Conspiracy? Internet and Conspiracy Theory

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion

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Scholars, journalists, and pundits claim that the internet is the cause of conspiracy theorizing. However, the arguments linking the internet to conspiracy theorizing are often underspecified and there is little empirical evidence linking the internet to conspiracy theorizing. Does the internet drive the spread of conspiracy theories and how so? In this chapter, we contend that the Internet has not done as much for conspiracy theorizing as many otherwise assume. While the Internet allows conspiracy theories to travel farther and faster than before, our evidence does not suggest that more people believe in conspiracy theories because of its introduction. Further, while many often assume that the internet allows people to spread ideas indiscriminately via social media, people tend to selectively choose their internet conspiracy theories based upon their existing dispositions, rather than by following the online herd as is often assumed.

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