Disinformation is a major concern in social media, and there is a need for understanding its circulation as beliefs that cannot be fact-checked. In this study, we investigate an online echo chamber that believes that the Earth is flat to understand their word-crafting techniques that make their arguments engaging to their audience.

The research article is entitled “Disinformation and Echo Chambers: How Disinformation Circulates in Social Media Through Identity-Driven Controversies,” and it has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

Key Takeaways:

  • Disinformation is more than facts vs falsehoods (fake news); it is an orchestrated program that drives engagement through identity-driven culture wars. Disinformation circulates and solidifies through never-ending grudges.

  • As an alternative approach to disinformation, we show that identity-driven controversies constitute a vehicle through which disinformation disseminates on social media. This means that raucous grudges on social media create a feedback loop that solidifies disinformation as points of view, becoming a way of ‘knowing’ in the world.

  • Fact-checking can backfire when disinformation circulates as identity work. To counter disinformation, policymakers and social media platforms can use a rhetorical approach to give participants of echo chambers an exit opportunity without losing face.

  • A detailed analysis of why people believe in misinformation such as the flat Earth theory -and how to argue with them.


This paper studies how disinformation disseminates on social media via echo chambers. It finds that identity‐driven controversies are prime vehicles to circulate disinformation because they invite consumers to participate in an oppositional fantasy that asks consumers to take sides in never-ending debates.

Building upon rhetoric theory, the paper shows that back-and-forth argumentation becomes a way of knowing in the world (i.e., epistemology) that justifies and validates what knowledge circulates in an echo chamber. The result is that consumers internalize disinformation into an identity project, solidifying positions that cannot be proven wrong.

This paper defines disinformation as follows. Disinformation is an engagement-driving process that encourages participation in culture wars through any argumentative means—including falsehoods, truths, half‐truths, and opinions—exploiting them rhetorically to contradict perceived opponents. In other words, disinformation includes more than seeding falsehoods in social media; instead, it is an engagement program that encourages consumers to take sides in a culture war.

Empirically, the paper explores the arguments circulating in the ‘flat Earth’ echo chamber in social media, a corner of the internet where people argue the earth is flat, not round. Whereas their arguments are often dismissed and ridiculed as ignorant, flat earthers talk in a way that persuades growing segments of the population. We find that they appeal to pre-existing controversies that their audience already believes.

How disinformation disseminates in social media through echo chambers

Given that social media features a continuous stream of identity-based controversies and culture wars, our theory is generalizable to understand disinformation in conspiracy theories such as QAnon, state-backed disinformation campaigns to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rise of hyper-partisan media such as Infowars, and corporate profiteering of vaccine misinformation.

The paper proposes a set of counterstrategies for policymakers. Whereas it is essential to maintain initiatives for identifying disinformation actors, flagging content, and fact-checking, other counterstrategies are needed. For instance, policymakers can: Identify the ‘insider’ logic that the echo chamber uses to develop counter-narratives aligned with their internal rationality. Provide consumers with a viable exit route to escape the echo chamber without losing face. Finally, eliminate the financial incentives for agents and social media platforms to profit from disinformation.


Diaz Ruiz, C., & Nilsson, T. (2022). EXPRESS: Disinformation and Echo Chambers: How Disinformation Circulates in Social Media Through Identity-Driven Controversies. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. https://doi.org/10.1177/07439156221103852

Disinformation and Echo Chambers in Social Media