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 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.
A misinfographic detailing supposed types of jihad spread from a conspiratorial Facebook page critical of Islam to the social and open web and eventually into the mainstream media when a major outlet aired a segment that included a version of the chart. Based on the evidence and pattern of activity, the amplification of the Islamophobic misinfographic was likely not an intentional campaign, but rather the result of the media cycle, prejudice, and political adoption.
Plandemic, a 26-minute trailer video about coronavirus conspiracy theories, went viral in May 2020 because of distributed amplification. In response to its high viewership, major social media platforms moderatedPlandemic and prepared for the full-length video. The platforms’ efforts slowed the spread of Indoctornation, the anticipated 75-minute movie. Indoctornation failed to achieve the virality Plandemic had.
In the fall of 2019, a coalition of conservative and right-wing influencers and conspiracists encouraged campaign participants to keyword squat the name of an individual who they alleged was the whistleblower who lodged a complaint about President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Mainstream press outlets implemented a media blackout to protect the identity of the whistleblower, which involved never printing the name of anyone alleged to be the person, including the target of the campaign. This asymmetrical media environment shaped the breaking news event and led to misidentification and targeted harassment.