Conspiracy Clickbait: This One Weird Trick Will Undermine Democracy

Conspiracy Clickbait: This One Weird Trick Will Undermine Democracy

Authors: Elise Thomas
Published: 19 January 2022

Historically, policymakers and investigators have tended to focus on state-linked disinformation operations, largely overlook the role of commercially motivated networks. However, the rise of a global industry producing conspiracy clickbait for profit is likely to have significant implications, including supercharging existing problems of disinformation and polarization.

This report explores three case studies of how networks linked to individuals in Vietnam are using QAnon conspiracy theories and US political disinformation to generate revenue. These case studies, part of our Conspiracy Clickbait series, illustrate that although the motive may be commercial, the effect of such networks is to deepen political division and amplify conspiracy theories and disinformation.

While each individual network may only have a small impact, the cumulative impact of many such networks around the world may be profound. This growing industry is disproportionately targeted at the US and therefore should be of particular concern for US policymakers and practitioners.

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