The Hydroxychloroquine Twitter War: A case study examining polarization in science communication
Keywords:COVID-19; Twitter; Social Media; Misinformation
The COVID-19 pandemic has created communication challenges exacerbated by the circulation of misinformation and the politicization of science. The case of hydroxychloroquine is an illustrative example, with the drug being aggressively promoted as a cure even while emerging evidence demonstrated the contrary. This research analyzed how hydroxychloroquine discussions took place on Twitter from 21 to 28 April 2020, a key period in developments around the drug. We collected, in real time, tweets with “hydroxychloroquine” over this period, which resulted in a dataset of nearly one million tweets from over 350,000 Twitter accounts. Our content analysis provides specific details of how hydroxychloroquine was promoted and critiqued, and which accounts were tweeting. Findings showed a highly polarized environment with active bots and conspiracy propagators, where political perspectives dominated the Twittersphere in the place of science-focused discussions.
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