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.
In 2020, a vast protest movement purportedly attempting to "#SaveTheChildren" from a non-existent cabal of satanist-worshipping pedophiles grew out of the QAnon conspiracy movement and mobilized people into the streets across the United States and beyond. Along the way, the campaign contributed to the spread misinformation about sex trafficking, and exposed a mainstream audience to harmful conspiracy theories. This case study traces the #SaveTheChildren campaign through its origins to its current impact.
Chileans voted overwhelmingly in October 2020 to scrap their dictatorship-era constitution and draft a more democratic new constitution. In the months before that referendum, a hashtag campaign deluged Chilean Twitter with messages opposing a new constitution and spreading misinformation across the South American country. A media manipulation campaign targeting an election in this way was novel for Chile—and journalists in fact-checkers struggled to respond.
David Greene, who lost his medical license after botched surgeries resulted in several deaths, sells unproven—and sometimes dangerous—medical treatments using stem cells. While certain stem cell therapies are effective treatments for a limited list of diseases, Greene persuades customers that the stem cell therapy he sells, using cord blood and amniotic tissues, is a near cure-all. Investigation into his marketing strategies shows that Greene is profiting off a business model that is based on phony science while laundering his online reputation to keep the patients—and their money—coming in.
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.