Conspiracy, misinformation, radicalisation: understanding the online pathway to indoctrination and opportunities for intervention

In response to the rise of various fringe movements in recent years, from anti-vaxxers to QAnon, there has been increased public and scholarly attention to misinformation and conspiracy theories and the online communities that produce them. However, efforts at understanding the radicalisation process largely focus on those who go on to commit violent crimes. This article draws on three waves of research exploring the experiences of individuals currently or formerly involved in fringe communities, including the different stages of investment they progressed through, and ultimately, what made people leave. We propose a pathway model for understanding contemporary online radicalisation, including potential interventions that could be safely made at each stage. Insight into the experience of being immersed in these communities is essential for engaging with these people empathetically, and therefore preventing both the emergence of violent terrorists and protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into these communities.

Tags: conspiracy, conspiracy theories