Social Media and Trust in Scientific Expertise: Debating the Covid-19 Pandemic in The Netherlands

Social Media and Trust in Scientific Expertise: Debating the Covid-19 Pandemic in The Netherlands

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  • December 18, 2020
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This article examines the role of social media dynamics in the public exchange of information between scientists (experts), government (policy-makers), mass media (journalists), and citizens (nonexperts) during the first 4 months after the Covid-19 outbreak in the Netherlands. Over the past decade, the institutional model of science communication, based on linear vectors of information flows between institutions, has gradually converted into a networked model where social media propel information flows circulating between all actors involved. The question driving our research is, “How are social media deployed to both undermine and enhance public trust in scientific expertise during a health crisis?” Analyzing the public debate during the period of the corona outbreak in the Netherlands, we investigate two stages: the emergency response phase and the “smart exit strategy” phase, discussing how scientific experts, policy-makers, journalists, and citizens appropriate social media logic to steer information and to control the debate. We conclude by outlining the potential risks and benefits of adopting social media dynamics in institutional contexts of science communication.

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