The COVID−19 Vaccination Campaign and Disinformation on Twitter: The Role of Opinion Leaders and Political Social Media Influencers in the Italian Debate on Green Pass
In Italy, the Twitter debate on the green pass ignited a conflict between mainstream positions in favor of restrictions, and opposite opinions extremely critical of government measures, also characterized by disinformation. Drawing from the classic Katz and Lazarsfeld model of influence, this article investigates the role of opinion leaders as well as that of political social media influencers (PSMIs) in fueling disinformation on the green pass. Thanks to a computational analysis of Twitter contents (4 million+) and the use of critical metrics and social network analysis (SNA), we identified a limited number of influential profiles endorsing critical positions on the green pass. Their interaction networks analysis also showed how both opinion leaders and PSMIs spread disinformation and conspiracy theories through a dissemination strategy aimed at diverting their followers from Twitter toward “below-the-radar” channels (e.g., Rumble), where positions on political issues tend to be more hyper-partisan.