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.
How did a TikTok trend that never existed alarm schools and teachers across the United States? This case documents how viral misinformation spread by concerned adults and amplified by the press became a full-fledged media manipulation campaign.
When a Trump ally claimed migrants were bringing Ebola into the US, fears of a deadly infectious disease furthered his crowdfunded quest to build a border wall with Mexico and fueled anti-immigrant sentiment. The 2019 Ebola rumor wasn't true, but that didn't stop it spreading in the far-right media ecosystem from Texas across the nation.
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.
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.