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In the absence of a coordinated national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local authorities were faced with the challenge of creating and enforcing individualized plans to protect their communities, while simultaneously fighting the spread of false information. In her newest paper, Dr. Francesca Tripodi applies qualitative content analysis and ethnographic observations of public ReOpen groups on Facebook to show how members reinterpreted datasets and other information to downplay the threat of COVID-19 and suggest workarounds to avoid compliance with public safety measures.

This proliferation of biased and inaccurate interpretations of complex data affirms the finding that the belief and spread of misinformation is often ideologically motivated, in this case fueling a view that the mainstream media, medical elites, and the radical left intentionally exaggerated the threat of COVID-19 as a socialist ploy to control the public.

“Those pushing to reopen churches, businesses, and schools did so because they did not inherently trust the information about COVID provided by the mainstream media or their state government, especially when local policies contradicted President Trump’s assessment of the virus.  Because members did not trust government or mainstream media, they sought alternative sources who interpreted data about COVID to downplay the threat, flout public safety measures, and promote workarounds.”

You can read the full paper here.

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