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Volume 6 2022 “The mask is not for you” : A framing analysis of pro- and anti-mask sentiment on Twitter

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작성자 Scott S.D. Mitchell, Josh Beanlands 작성일 22-08-23 11:35
COVID-19   Coronavirus   Facemasks   Masks   Public Health Messaging


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread adoption of facemasks has been recognized as a low-cost, simple public health intervention that can reduce the transmission of the virus. However, early in the pandemic significant public opposition emerged in the U.S. and other parts of the world. So-called “anti-maskers” argue that COVID-19 is a hoax or the threat is overblown, that facemasks are ineffective, or that mask mandates infringe on personal rights and freedoms. Social media platforms can play an important role in shaping public sentiment about health issues, as well as circulating harmful misinformation. Researchers can also study social media data to better understand public perceptions and dominant discourses. This study examines four prominent mask-related hashtags on Twitter across three different time periods early in the pandemic. A content analysis of these tweets was used to investigate pro- and anti-mask wearing sentiment, the motivations behind these beliefs, the rhetorical strategies and themes present in these communications, and changes over time. Of the 600 tweets collected, 440 were pro-mask wearing, 134 were anti-mask wearing, and 26 did not declare a position. Pro-mask tweets used evidence at a rate of 28%, while anti-mask tweets used evidence at a rate of 16%. The most common motivation for a pro-mask position was mask-wearing as a civic duty, and the most common motivation for an anti-mask position was standing up to government tyranny. There were 68 tweets that expressed distrust in institutions, 97% of which were anti-mask, 44% mentioned a conspiracy theory while only 18% used evidence to support their position. It was found that mask sentiment on Twitter encompasses a variety of themes, worldviews, and rationales. Public health messaging must go beyond information transmission, and account for the complexity of the social, political, and economic factors which influence belief and behavior.