YouTube videos behind rise of 'Flat Earthers'
Houston: Popular video-sharing site YouTube may be the prime driver behind the rise in the number of people who think the Earth is flat, scientists say.
Researchers from Texas Tech University in the US attended the world's largest gatherings of Flat Earthers held in the last two years.
They interviewed 30 attendees to understand how they were convinced that the Earth was a large flat disc spinning in space.
All but one said that they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching videos promoting conspiracy theories on YouTube.
"The only person who didn't say this was there with his daughter and his son-in-law and they had seen it on YouTube and told him about it," Asheley Landrum, who led the research at Texas Tech University, was quoted as saying by 'The Guardian'.
The interviews revealed that most had been watching videos about other conspiracies, with alternative takes on 9/11 and whether NASA really went to the moon, when YouTube offered up Flat Earth videos for them to watch next.
Some said they watched the videos only in order to debunk them but soon found themselves won over by the material.
One of the most popular Flat Earth videos, 200 proofs Earth is not a spinning ball appears to be effective because it offers arguments that appeal to so many mindsets, from biblical literalists and conspiracy theorists to those of a more scientific bent, researchers said.
"Believing the Earth is flat in of itself is not necessarily harmful, but it comes packaged with a distrust in institutions and authority more generally," Landrum said.
"We want people to be critical consumers of the information they are given, but there is a balance to be had," she said.
The team called on scientists and others to create their own YouTube videos to combat the proliferation of conspiracy videos.