Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

“Resistance!”: Collective Action Cues in Conspiracy Theory-Endorsing Facebook Groups

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Abstract:  Conspiracy theories on social media have been suspected of contributing to mobilization and radicalization. Yet, few studies have examined the prevalence of psychological variables that may serve to motivate normative and non-normative collective action in this material. Drawing from the “social identity model of collective action,” the current study uses a mixed-methods approach to examine the prevalence of collective action cues in conspiracy theory-endorsing social media spaces. Towards this end, I examined four German Facebook groups (Covid-19-Skeptic, Far-Right, Chemtrail, and Political Affairs) during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic. The results of qualitative content analysis (N = 828 posts), a hierarchical cluster analysis, and the examination of popularity cues showed that: (a) collective action cues were frequent; (b) most posts transmitted alternative views (Cluster 1) or absolutist ideologies (Cluster 2) with few collective action cues—yet, more than one-third of the posts were either mobilizing (Cluster 3) or wrathful (Cluster 4), entailing multiple collective action cues including cues theoretically linked to non-normative action; (c) mobilizing and wrathful posts were more engaging than alternative views and absolutist ideologies; (d) the types of posts and levels of engagement varied between the examined groups such that the Chemtrail and the Far-Right group disseminated more content with a higher mobilizing potential. The Far-Right group was also the most active in responding to its members. The results of this study are novel in that they demonstrate the prevalence of cues that have been linked to non-normative collective action in psychological research within conspiracy theory-endorsing Facebook groups.

Keywords:  collective action; conspiracy theories; Facebook; Facebook groups; non-normative collective action; popularity cues; radicalization; virtual groups



© Lena Frischlich. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.