June 26, 2020 (Phys.org) -- A new study by UCLA professors offers a new way to understand how unfounded conspiracy theories emerge online.
The research -- which combines sophisticated artificial intelligence and a deep knowledge of how folklore is structured -- explains how unrelated facts and false information can connect into a narrative framework that would quickly fall apart if some of those elements are taken out of the mix.
The authors from the UCLA College and the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering illustrated the difference in the storytelling elements of a debunked conspiracy theory and those that emerged when journalists covered an actual event in the news media.
Their approach could help shed light on how and why other conspiracy theories, including those around COVID-19, spread -- even in the absence of facts.
Researchers produced a graphic representation of the narratives they analyzed, with layers for major subplots of each story, and lines connecting the key people, places and institutions within and among those layers. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles