Using the Life Cycle of Media Manipulation, each case study features a chronological description of a media manipulation event, which is filtered along specific variables such as tactics, targets, mitigation, outcomes, and keywords.
In 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a network of Twitter accounts that had previously posted narratives friendly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) switched their messaging to focus on the pandemic, attempting to portray government actions in response to the pandemic in a more positive light. The accounts, many of which exhibited the hallmarks of automation and inauthenticity, were also linked to a public relations firm in China.
In times of crisis, when local, timely, and relevant information is sorely needed, medical misinformation thrives.
This case study focuses on one such rumor: that the antimalarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) were effective treatments for COVID-19. Beginning as cloaked science published as a Google document, the rumor quickly traded up the chain to President Trump and his administration, who amplified it and muddied the waters around COVID-19.
During the 2020 presidential election, conspiracists, influencers, and partisans spread a voter fraud conspiracy theory using the viral slogan Hammer and Scorecard, intended to undermine the election victory of Joe Biden.
On May 23, 2020, graphic photos and videos of executed Egyptian terrorist Hesham Ashmawy were leaked by pro-regime influencers. The timing of the leak appears to have been deliberately synced with the narrative arc of a primetime Ramadan television series, produced and funded by Egypt’s security services. A detailed forensic analysis suggests the leaks were part of a coordinated propaganda campaign meant to aggrandize Egypt’s military and scapegoat religious fundamentalism.
The Yan Report is a misleading preprint that claims COVID-19 was made in a Chinese lab. The author, Dr. Li-Meng Yan, is supported by a partisan partnership between Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, whose media networks and connections led to media coverage of Yan and the preprint. The case study is an example of how preprints—non-peer-reviewed articles—can be used as cloaked science to muddy the waters during times of crisis and uncertainty.