Research Paper

Those ‘funny’ internet memes: a study of misinformation retransmission and vaccine hesitancy

By Abhishek Behl
Assistant Professor
By Payal S. Kapoor
Assistant Professor
Journal : Behaviour & Information Technology
Publisher : Taylor & Francis Online

Article citation: Kapoor, P., & Behl, A. (2024). Those ‘funny’internet memes: a study of misinformation retransmission and vaccine hesitancy. Behaviour & Information Technology, 1-18.

Vocal vaccine opposition and hesitancy due to social media-based misinformation is a global threat to public health. This research seeks to investigate the influence of internet memes on misinformation retransmission in the context of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Two experimental-based studies have been conducted. The first study investigates the influence of internet memes (subjective versus objective) on vaccine hesitancy and retransmission. In addition, mediation of vaccine hesitancy on the relationship between meme types and retransmission is investigated. The second study investigates the moderation of social media virality metrics (high versus low) on the influence of internet memes. The results confirm objective memes lead to higher retransmission, and subjective memes lead to higher vaccine hesitancy. Further, mediation of vaccine hesitancy is significant. Additionally, the influence of subjective and objective memes alters due to the interaction effect with virality metrics. The finds offer essential insights into the nature of misinformation and retransmission behaviour. At an aggregate level, this understanding can help stakeholders closely monitor and immediately identify social media posts that may spread misinformation. The study unites meme type and virality metrics in observing misinformation retransmission and vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic.