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.
Since the 1970s, before there was an internet to spread disinformation, activists in the anti-abortion movement have promoted the falsehood that there is a link between breast cancer and abortion. There is no link, but this scare tactic has had enormous staying power, and the internet has provided a networked terrain for it to spread even farther.
During the Oregon wildfires of September 2020, rumors spread locally and nationally that left wing activists had intentionally set the fires based on a series of misidentifications and inference by public officials. The rumor was amplified from partisan influencers on the far right, fake antifa Twitter accounts, anonymous trolling communities on 4chan, the QAnon conspiracy network, and late stage attention from President Trump.
Following the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, 2020, allegations were circulated by his family and fans that his girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, had murdered him. Although his death was officially declared a suicide, this media spectacle not only increased confusion and distrust of the investigations but led to the arrest and harassment of Chakraborty.
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.