Conspiracy theories are dusted amid the violent videos, racist comments, and death threats that Facebook moderators face every day. That putrid flood of information can be traumatic, as The Verge’s Casey Newton found when he reported on the working conditions endured by moderators in Phoenix, Arizona. Some of the workers bombarded with conspiracy theories told Newton that they were starting to believe the ideas they were seeing.
What makes people start believing that the Earth is flat, or that 9/11 wasn’t a terrorist attack? And, in this case, did the stressful working conditions have anything to do with it? To answer some of those questions, The Verge turned to Mike Wood. Wood, a psychologist at the University of Winchester, studies conspiracy theories, and how they spread from the fringes to the mainstream. The Verge spoke to him about the current research into conspiracy theories, and whether there’s anything people can do to make themselves less susceptible to them.
It's often a case of a message hitting soft ground where it is easily absorbed, in other words, its something a person thinks is likely or wants to actually believe (for whatever reason) and where stressful situations were experienced (like death of a family member, divorce, major disruption to their lives ). They are less likely to strike home with someone who is already a skeptic or is broadly informed on matters.
And you will find it difficult to change someone's mind once it has taken root and is believed by many others because other research has shown that being exposed to facts doesn’t seem to change people’s minds.
Social media of course also allows conspiracy theories to spread quickly without any filter (like editors and journalists would check facts for a newspaper).
Some may find them amusing but consequences can be devastating.