skip to main content

Fighting Misinformation: Social Work’s Battle Against Conspiracy Theories


Fordham GSS Professor Carole Cox, Ph.D., has recently published research on the harm of conspiracy theories and how social work can effectively intervene on the macro and micro levels to stop conspiracies from spreading.

The article, titled “Conspiracy Theory: The Demand for Social Work Interventions” and published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, cites the attractiveness of conspiracy theories to many and the use of social media as reasons why these theories seem to easily spread throughout society. This is a significant problem, Cox writes, since many of these theories undermine human rights and social justice.

Cox then calls social work to action, stating that social work “with its focus on social justice and the person-in-environment framing—must assume a proactive role in dealing with these theories, which includes interventions at many different levels of practice beginning with education.”

“Social work’s goal of achieving inclusive, diverse, and equitable societies demands that the profession assume an active role in challenging these theories.”

The article describes the characteristics of conspiracy theories, narrowing down to political and public health conspiracy theories, specifically. Furthermore, it discusses the consequences of these harmful conspiracies and delves into the different areas for social work intervention at the micro and macro levels.

The article concludes with the following:

Social work involvement and interventions at all levels of practice are necessary to assure that conspiracy theories that foster oppression and undermine social justice and human rights are challenged. Laws and policies that forbid teaching about specific subjects that are viewed as controversial or dangerous contribute to marginalization and oppression and must be contested. At the individual level, practitioners can work with those adhering to the theories to help them understand their beliefs, their need for them, and the consequences on themselves and others. Using their counseling skills, they can work to address the underlying needs that make the theories attractive.

At the macro level, practitioners must become actively involved in challenging the theories themselves. Advocacy and community interventions that include confronting the theories as well as the sources that spread them, exposing their falsehoods and claims, are important measures that can combat them at many levels. By joining with others, becoming involved in politics, and running for public office, social workers can assume critical roles in shaping policies that promote social justice.

Finally, conspiracy theories are incompatible with inclusive, diverse, and equitable societies and counteract the goals and ideals of the social work profession. Social workers can use their education and skills to challenge these theories and the threats they pose to communities. The theories demand social work attention and interventions at all levels of practice. Ignoring them and permitting them to proliferate pose a severe risk to our society and its institutions.


Comments are closed.