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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

The 5g conspiracy and Covid-19: How language affects the spreading of misinformation on Twitter

Published: May 25, 2021


Marco Visentin, University of Bologna; Annamaria Tuan, University of Bologna; Giandomenico Di Domenico, University of Porthmouth - Faculty of Business and Law


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the spreading of misinformation has reached unprecedented peaks on social media platforms. The analysis of language is of paramount importance in understanding the motivational determinants of social media users in sharing misinformation, as language style conveys meanings and affects the engagement to social media contents. In this study, we analyze textual and non-textual cues from 4923 tweets containing the hashtags #5G and #Huawei published during the first week of May 2020, when conspiracy theories linking the 5G technology to the spreading of the pandemic were circulating online. Through logistic and Poisson regression approaches, we evaluate the effects of the textual and non-textual cues on the retweeting rates. In particular, we find that textual cues play a more important role than the veracity of contents in the spreading of misinformation on Twitter. Moreover, the role of confirmation bias in eliciting misinformation sharing is confirmed.