Conspiracy theories are about to go viral in new, murkier ways

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Online conspiracy theories are surprisingly convincing – and present significant danger to the real world. At Jigsaw, a division of Google focused on countering digital extremism, cyberattacks and misinformation, we conducted more than 70 in-depth interviews in 2020 with people in the US and UK who believe the Earth is flat, that school shootings were government plots and that white populations are being intentionally replaced by non-whites.

Those beliefs lead to changes in behaviour: we found that people who believe disinformation about the origin of Covid-19 shun face masks and ignore social-distancing. In 2021, anti-vaccination activists will use the internet to warn about what they see as nefarious motives behind any pandemic-vaccination programme.

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