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The Number of Flat-Earthers is Growing and Scientists are Blaming YouTube18.02.2019

Although it would seem that notion that Earth is a sphere is universally accepted and hardly controversial, the number of so-called “Flat Earthers” continues to grow. According to latest analyses, YouTube bears at least some of the responsibility for the rise. 

Writing on the spread of flat-Eartherism, The Guardian brought up a Texas Tech University study led by Dr. Asheley Landrum. To get more insight into their thinking, Landrum traveled to the largest flat Earther convention in the world, held annually in Raleigh, North Carolina. The interviews that he conducted with attendees in 2017 and 2018 and the conclusions they gave rise to were then compiled into a comprehensive study. 

As expected, watching conspiracy theory-ridden clips on YouTube profoundly influences the beliefs and positions of the viewers. Many people revealed that it was a convincing video on YouTube that first made them rethink their position on flat Earth theory, even though most of them thought the theory absolutely bonkers just two years back. Today, they seriously believe that the Earth is a flat disc over which hangs all of space, including the Sun and the Moon. 

Although Dr. Landrum holds that in and of itself YouTube cannot be blamed for the proliferation of flat-Eartherism, it should revisit its algorithms so they suggest videos coming from more reputable sources. Currently, the suggestion system often sends us down a rabbit hole of conspiracy-minded videos that have little in common with reality. 

According to Landrum, one of the most popular flat Earther movies on YouTube—Eric Dubay: 200 Proofs Earth is Not a Spinning Ball—is so effective primarily because it offers a variety of arguments that speak to many different ways of thinking. The film brings up conspiracy theories and Bible passages, and strives to sow uncertainty by using simple, yet penetrating questions, such as: “If the Earth is round, how come we can’t see the horizon curve away from us?” 

How can we counter the spread of flat-Earther theories? Dr. Landrum appealed to scientists across the world and run-of-the-mill YouTube users to produce their own, science- and evidence-based movies that would offer legitimate evidence of the Earth’s spherical shape, and appeal to both inveterate flat Earthers and more open-minded viewers.

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