Visual Framing of Science Conspiracy Videos
Integrating Machine Learning with Communication Theories to Study the Use of Color and Brightness
Keywords:conspiracy, color and brightness, YouTube, computer vision, machine learning, text analysis
Recent years have witnessed an explosion of science conspiracy videos on the Internet, challenging science epistemology and public understanding of science. Scholars have started to examine the persuasion techniques used in conspiracy messages such as uncertainty and fear yet, little is understood about the visual narratives, especially how visual narratives differ in videos that debunk conspiracies versus those that propagate conspiracies. This paper addresses this gap in understanding visual framing in conspiracy videos through analyzing millions of frames from conspiracy and counter-conspiracy YouTube videos using computational methods. We found that conspiracy videos tended to use lower color variance and brightness, especially in thumbnails and earlier parts of the videos. This paper also demonstrates how researchers can integrate textual and visual features in machine learning modelsto study conspiracies on social mediaand discusses the implications of computational modeling for scholars interested in studying visual manipulation in the digital era. The analysis of visual and textual features presented in this paper could be useful for future studies focused on designing systems to identify conspiracy content on the Internet.