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Climate change deniers and believers on the TikTok media platform: similarity and difference in the distribution of their knowledge claims
Thesis title in Czech: Popírači a zastánci klimatické změny na mediální platformě Tik Tok: podobnosti a rozdíly v distribuci jejich poznávacích nároků
Thesis title in English: Climate change deniers and believers on the TikTok media platform: similarity and difference in the distribution of their knowledge claims
Key words: konspirace, vědění, důvěra, média, algoritmy
English key words: Conspiracy, Knowledge, Trust, Media, Algorithms
Academic year of topic announcement: 2021/2022
Thesis type: Bachelor's thesis
Thesis language: angličtina
Department: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Supervisor: PhDr. Mgr. Jan Balon, Ph.D.
Author: hidden - assigned by the advisor
Date of registration: 26.08.2022
Date of assignment: 26.08.2022
Date and time of defence: 13.09.2023 13:00
Venue of defence: Areál Jinonice, B228, 228, seminární místnost ISS
Date of electronic submission:01.08.2023
Date of proceeded defence: 13.09.2023
Opponents: Mgr. Linda Coufal
 
 
 
Guidelines
Research question(s) (what to find out?)

- What is the mechanism of finding the justifiable source of information?
- How often, where, and under which circumstances users of social medias encounter information which does not belong to their world view and contradicts their beliefs?
- What differences do people notice between their online and offline infosphere?
-What is the basis of their doubt toward alternative information?
- Is there any changes in feeling of trust towards the official knowledge sources (academia, government, WHO, science journals etc.) in results of recent commotions?
5. Method(s) of data production (how?)
-Qualitative method-interviews either offline or online (semi-structured approach)
-sampling- 10 young people under 27 years old, active TikTok users, citizens of EU. 5 denials and 5 believers of climate change
6. Method(s) of data analysis (how?)
Qualitative analysis of recorded interviews, transcripts. Main method being thematic coding supplemented with content analysis. These two methods would be sufficient for understanding the mechanism behind the people choice of knowledge sources. The thematic coding will help to recognize the patterns in respondents answers, and compare them to each other separately for each of the research question. Supporting method-content analysis to find differences in the purposes, interpretation and narratives of the two groups according to their choice of words.
References
Bar-Tal, D. (1989). Delegitimization: The Extreme Case of Stereotyping and Prejudice. Stereotyping and Prejudice, 169–182. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4612-3582-8_8
Beer, D. (2016). The social power of algorithms. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118x.2016.1216147
Chopra, R., & Sharma, G. D. (2021). Application of Artificial Intelligence in Stock Market Forecasting: A Critique, Review, and Research Agenda. Journal of Risk and Financial Management, 14(11), 526. https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm14110526
Compton, J., Linden, S., Cook, J., & Basol, M. (2021). Inoculation theory in the post‐truth era: Extant findings and new frontiers for contested science, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 15(6). https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12602
Enders, A. M., Uscinski, J. E., Seelig, M. I., Klofstad, C. A., Wuchty, S., Funchion, J. R., Murthi, M. N., Premaratne, K., & Stoler, J. (2021). The Relationship Between Social Media Use and Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation. Political Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-021-09734-6
Mahl, D., Schäfer, M. S., & Zeng, J. (2022). Conspiracy theories in online environments: An interdisciplinary literature review and agenda for future research. New Media & Society, 146144482210757. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221075759
Min, S. J. (2021). Who Believes in Conspiracy Theories? Network Diversity, Political Discussion, and Conservative Conspiracy Theories on Social Media. American Politics Research, 49(5), 415–427. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673x211013526
Taygi, A., & Carley, K. M. (2021). Climate Change Conspiracy Theories on Social Media. arXiv. https://arxiv.org/abs/2107.03318
Uscinski, J. E., Douglas, K., & Lewandowsky, S. (2017). Climate Change Conspiracy Theories. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.328

Preliminary scope of work
The number of conspiracy theories, fake news, and other unverified but very believable knowledge have spiked in recent years. Those articles and videos find their consumers very easily with help of algorithm based social networks. One of such is TikTok that have become the fastest growing media platform with over 1 billion active users. And the main features or perks of the platform is personalized content recommendation algorithm that create an informational bubble around a user, keeping them within the context that they are used to. This has empowered phenomenons such as anti-vaccination movements during COVID fear of 5G technologies and climate-change deniers. The former is going to be the pivot of the research, taking both narratives : deniers and believers from the respective TikTok communities, this research will try to analyze what keeps them firm in their beliefs, what knowledge they base their opinion and what they bring to the discourse. New media environment functions as a narrative allocator: it provides people with who share similar beliefs with information that aligns with their world view and, knowledge. This negatively affects credibility that the users of the web give to any knowledge online now. The information would be gathered through interviews with the representatives of both parties.

State of the art
The algorithms and AI (automated intelligence) are widely used in numerous fields where there integration has massively changed the rules by which the structure works. Another reason for the rise of disputes around common scientific knowledge is lack of consensus for some topics. “Inspired by narrative theory, we crawl social media sites and news reports and, through the application of automated machine-learning methods, discover the underlying narrative frameworks supporting the generation of rumors and conspiracy theories.” (Shahsavari et al., 2020). And other research has shown that exposure of users to multilateral media agendas affect people’s world view by corroding and accommodating innate believes-creating a breach for doubts. (Su et al., 2021)
We perceive algorithm as a kind of mighty and dark force that pulls the strings of social network. Whereas the algorithm is a part of the background or setting, and it is people who create content.
And when it comes to the wall of partition between climate change deniers and believers, it has been shown in a poll of 2013 in the US that the number of US citizens who think climate change is a lie comes up to 40% (Uscinski et al., 2017). Although, the situation in European Union is different, with around 90% of people viewing climate change as a major problem, there are still some who think that this is all a hoax.

Ethical consideration
The topic of false information, conspiracies and anything that undermines questioning beliefs is sensitive. Therefore, I will try to be as neutral to the topic as possible. All the data collected shall remain anonymous, and no participants will be forced to undergo interview and can withdraw at any moment. The point of the research is not to find what is the right answer, but to uncover the mechanisms behind people's beliefs, so no critical remarks, choices, and word are going to be used in respect of both opinions.
Preliminary scope of work in English
Research question(s) (what to find out?)

- What is the mechanism of finding the justifiable source of information?
- How often, where, and under which circumstances users of social medias encounter information which does not belong to their world view and contradicts their beliefs?
- What differences do people notice between their online and offline infosphere?
-What is the basis of their doubt toward alternative information?
- Is there any changes in feeling of trust towards the official knowledge sources (academia, government, WHO, science journals etc.) in results of recent commotions?
5. Method(s) of data production (how?)
-Qualitative method-interviews either offline or online (semi-structured approach)
-sampling- 10 young people under 27 years old, active TikTok users, citizens of EU. 5 denials and 5 believers of climate change
6. Method(s) of data analysis (how?)
Qualitative analysis of recorded interviews, transcripts. Main method being thematic coding supplemented with content analysis. These two methods would be sufficient for understanding the mechanism behind the people choice of knowledge sources. The thematic coding will help to recognize the patterns in respondents answers, and compare them to each other separately for each of the research question. Supporting method-content analysis to find differences in the purposes, interpretation and narratives of the two groups according to their choice of words.
 
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