Conspiracy theories are defined by psychologists as “explanations for important events that involve secret plots by powerful and malevolent groups” without any basis in fact, research shows. Mapping these conspiracy theories helps us understand who we fear and do not trust, as societies.

Chemtrails refers to the conspiracy theory that governments or other parties are engaged in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere from aircraft in a way that forms visible plumes in the sky, according to David Keith's Research Group at Harvard University.

Now, the theory has been around for years, but recently it began to show more and more often, altogether with other false stories or conspiracies that emphasis on the existence of “evil global elites” who make us ill or vaccinate us against our will - or even eliminate all mankind - through chemtrails.

To document the spreading of false narratives and conspiracy theories around chemtrails, we used Mindbugs Discovery Tools.

First of all, we used its advanced search engine that indexes exclusively debunked disinformation from verified media sources. That allowed us to perform a fast search and find tens of false claims about the existence of chemtrails, already debunked around Europe.

From the 33 articles selected we also were able to understand how complex the chemtrails narrative is evolving, being associated with other natural phenomenon, such as saharan dust or clouds in weird shapes.

So, in just seconds, we were able to obtain a set of relevant information and save time in a profession driven by the need to do everything very quickly. We've selected only the false stories containing references to "chemtrails" conspiracy theories - and we've found that these narratives appear predominantly in Russia, but we detect them in almost every European country.

MindBugsDiscovery, Countries Chart

We were even able to generate a map of Europe that visually describes the spread of this piece of misinformation… And yeah, it seems to be everywhere.

MindBugsDiscovery, Map Chart

Now, if we want to expand our research, the tool allows us to add claims and narratives to our charts, using the catalog of debunked disinformation. For example, we added the word “deaths” to our previous “chemtrails in Europe” search, in order to check if this conspiracy theory goes as far as claiming that we have already had deaths attributed to “chemtrails”. We found no relevant results, but we discovered that the oldest piece of debunked misinformation about chemtrails found dates back in 2012.

We also wanted to select only the debunked disinformation that contains the word chemtrails, and we discovered that only for the past year and a half, we have had the word mentioned in 11 false claims spread in four european countries: Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Czechia.

MindBugsDiscovery, Timeline

Then, we wanted to see how other words connect to the conspiracy theory, and we were able to do that by generating new searches and pre-selecting results according to our needs. It was fast and we found that chemtrails are also associated with other ways in which “the bad elites” want to secretly kill us: 5G technology.

So now we can begin a new search, to map another conspiracy theory promising to eliminate human kind. The truth is out there. Mindbugs just brings it very close, very fast.

MindBugsDiscovery, Timeline

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. Funded within the framework of the NGI Search project under grant agreement No 101069364.