Does the platform matter? Social media and COVID-19 conspiracy theory beliefs in 17 countries

Yannis Theocharis*, Ana Cardenal, Soyeon Jin, Toril Aalberg, David Nicolas Hopmann, Jesper Strömbäck, Laia Castro, Frank Esser, Peter Van Aelst, Claes de Vreese, Nicoleta Corbu, Karolina Koc-Michalska, Joerg Matthes, Christian Schemer, Tamir Sheafer, Sergio Splendore, James Stanyer, Agnieszka Stępińska, Václav Štětka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


While the role of social media in the spread of conspiracy theories has received much attention, a key deficit in previous research is the lack of distinction between different types of platforms. This study places the role of social media affordances in facilitating the spread of conspiracy beliefs at the center of its enquiry. We examine the relationship between platform use and conspiracy theory beliefs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Relying on the concept of technological affordances, we theorize that variation across key features make some platforms more fertile places for conspiracy beliefs than others. Using data from a crossnational dataset based on a two-wave online survey conducted in 17 countries before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we show that Twitter has a negative effect on conspiracy beliefs—as opposed to all other platforms under examination which are found to have a positive effect.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project was financially supported by the Network of European Political Communication Scholars (NEPOCS). Data collection in Denmark was supported by the University of Southern Denmark. The collection of data in Hungary and Poland was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/S01019X/1]. The collection of the data in France was supported by an Audencia Foundation grant. The collection of data in Sweden was supported by the research project “Knowledge resistance: causes, consequences, cures”, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. Yannis Theocharis would like to acknowledge the support of the ZeMKI Lenkungskreis at the University of Bremen, which generously contributed to funding this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Affordances
  • COVID-19
  • conspiracy theories
  • misperceptions
  • social media


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