Conspiratorial Beliefs Observed through Entropy Principles
5611 - 5634 p.
Sociophysics, Conspiracy, Social contagion, Internet studies
We propose a novel approach framed in terms of information theory and entropy to tackle the issue of the propagation of conspiracy theories. We represent the initial report of an event (such as the 9/11 terroristic attack) as a series of strings of information, each string classified by a two-state variable Ei = ±1, i = 1, ..., N. If the values of the Ei are set to −1 for all strings, a state of minimum entropy is achieved. Comments on the report, focusing repeatedly on several strings Ek, might alternate their meaning (from −1 to +1). The representation of the event is turned fuzzy with an increased entropy value. Beyond some threshold value of entropy, chosen by simplicity to its maximum value, meaning N/2 variables with Ei = 1, the chance is created that a conspiracy theory might be initiated/propagated. Therefore, the evolution of the associated entropy is a way to measure the degree of penetration of a conspiracy theory. Our general framework relies on online content made voluntarily available by crowds of people, in response to some news or blog articles published by official news agencies. We apply different aggregation levels (comment, person, discussion thread) and discuss the associated patterns of entropy change.