Conspiracy Beliefs, Misinformation, Social Media Platforms, and Protest Participation

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Conspiracy Beliefs, Misinformation, Social Media Platforms, and Protest Participation


  • Shelley Boulianne Department of Sociology, MacEwan University, Canada
  • Sangwon Lee Department of Communication Studies, New Mexico State University, USA


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Abstract:  Protest has long been associated with left-wing actors and left-wing causes. However, right-wing actors also engage in protest. Are right-wing actors mobilized by the same factors as those actors on the left? This article uses cross-national survey data (i.e., US, UK, France, and Canada) gathered in February 2021 to assess the role of misinformation, conspiracy beliefs, and the use of different social media platforms in explaining participation in marches or demonstrations. We find that those who use Twitch or TikTok are twice as likely to participate in marches or demonstrations, compared to non-users, but the uses of these platforms are more highly related to participation in right-wing protests than left-wing protests. Exposure to misinformation on social media and beliefs in conspiracy theories also increase the likelihood of participating in protests. Our research makes several important contributions. First, we separate right-wing protest participation from left-wing protest participation, whereas existing scholarship tends to lump these together. Second, we offer new insights into the effects of conspiracy beliefs and misinformation on participation using cross-national data. Third, we examine the roles of emerging social media platforms such as Twitch and TikTok (as well as legacy platforms such as YouTube and Facebook) to better understand the differential roles that social media platforms play in protest participation.

Keywords:  conspiracy; cross-national; Facebook; misinformation; protest; social media; TikTok; Twitch; YouTube

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i4.5667


© Shelley Boulianne, Sangwon Lee. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.