REJECTING SCIENCE WITH SCIENCE: BOUNDARY-WORK IN ANTI-MASK TWITTER REPLY THREADS DURING COVID-19
Keywords:science, twitter, covid, debate, citation
The COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by a controversy in the United States over the public health benefits of mask-wearing, especially on social media. Many have contested the scientific consensus that masks are an effective method to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 infections, often along explicitly political lines. Here, we investigate specifically how Twitter users engaging in arguments about mask-wearing invoke scientific principles to argue against masks. We further analyze the sources that these users cite to support their claims. Using a qualitative approach drawing from constructivist grounded theory, we show how these users work to defend the legitimacy of their claims and their external sources by selectively exploiting rhetorical values of scientific endeavour. We analogize their work to the process of scientific boundary-work, in which actors consciously manipulate the boundary between science and not-science for personal and political gain.