Wednesday, 07 Dec 2022

Stepping into the mainstream: how the Herald Sun amplified conspiracy theories about Daniel Andrews 2021 fall

Stepping into the mainstream: how the Herald Sun amplified conspiracy theories about Daniel Andrews 2021 fall


Stepping into the mainstream: how the Herald Sun amplified conspiracy theories about Daniel Andrews 2021 fall

On Sunday, just hours after News Corp's exclusive picture of a set of stairs hit the stands, a telling reaction came from a small but persistently conspiratorial account on Twitter.

The account, minuscule in its following, has routinely pushed wild and false theories about Daniel Andrews' 2021 fall at a Sorrento beach house rental and the source of his injuries.

"I don't think I've ever purchased a mainstream newspaper," the tweet read, accompanied by a picture of the Herald Sun's front page. "I did today."

The tweet was representative of how News Corp's reporting has been embraced by the fringes of social media.

The Herald Sun's decision to publish pictures of the scene of Andrews' fall in March 2021 - while explicitly canvassing "alternative theories" - quickly revived conspiracies about the cause of the Victorian premier's serious injuries which left the state temporarily leaderless during the pandemic.

Those conspiracies had largely been dormant for more than a year, after first being driven by posts on the far right's favoured encrypted messaging app, Telegram, and posts on a fringe "news" website promoting QAnon and the Port Arthur massacre conspiracies.

The Herald Sun itself noted of the alternative theories "none have been proven and the premier has dismissed them all". But, if nothing else, the story confirmed what academics have known for some time. There is a direct and obvious relationship between mainstream coverage and the amplification and legitimisation of conspiratorial content on social media, including on more conventional platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit.

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