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Memetics of Deception: Spreading Local Meme Hoaxes during COVID-19 1st Year

Published: 10 June 2021
 by  MDPI AG
Future Internet , Volume 13; doi:10.3390/fi13060152

Abstract: The central thesis of this paper is that memetic practices can be crucial to understanding deception at present when hoaxes have increased globally due to COVID-19. Therefore, we employ existing memetic theory to describe the qualities and characteristics of meme hoaxes in terms of the way they are replicated by altering some aspects of the original, and then shared on social media platforms in order to connect global and local issues. Criteria for selecting the sample were hoaxes retrieved from and related to the local territory in the province of Alicante (Spain) during the first year of the pandemic (n = 35). Once typology, hoax topics and their memetic qualities were identified, we analysed their characteristics according to form in terms of Shifman (2014) and, secondly, their content and stance concordances both within and outside our sample (Spain and abroad). The results show, firstly, that hoaxes are mainly disinformation and they are related to the pandemic. Secondly, despite the notion that local hoaxes are linked to local circumstances that are difficult to extrapolate, our conclusions demonstrate their extraordinary memetic and “glocal” capacity: they rapidly adapt other hoaxes from other places to local areas, very often supplanting reliable sources, and thereby demonstrating consistency and opportunism.
Keywords: fake news / memetics / COVID-19 / hoaxes / glocal / misinformation

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