Recessionary situations such as the current Corona pandemic affect people’s behaviour, since most people react to them with fear. Nowadays, social media is used by many people all over the world, thus, people as well as public and private organizations and groups share, post and comment messages on social media. This way, many people can be reached in a very short time. However, not all posts on social media can be defined trustworthy. Instead, a lot of people, groups and organizations make use of social media to spread rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories. There are three main motivations increasing people’s beliefs in these types of news: desire to feel security for themselves as well as the groups they belong to; making sense of their specific environment and /or striving for safety and control in times of severe recessionary situations. Among the current demonstrators against the Corona policy of the German government, one can often identify supporters of specific groups that share their beliefs. However, it is not easy to differentiate between true and fake news or rumours. The present paper uses the quantitative data collection method to investigate the reasons why people may change their behaviour in recessionary situations and why some people are more prone to believing rumours and fake news on social media than others. In this context, message credibility plays an important role. The results show that rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories are able to decrease people’s trust in health agencies and / or governments.
Corona pandemic, recessionary situation, conspiracy theories, rumours, fake news, human behaviour
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