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 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.
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.
In the final two weeks of the 2020 presidential election, Republican operatives spread a recontextualized video of candidate Joe Biden they took out of context from a larger interview.
They claimed it showed the candidate bragging about running the “biggest voter fraud organization this country has ever seen.” While this claim was quickly debunked, it was amplified by influencers and media personalities. It was also adopted by administration officials to muddy the waters about election integrity, which furthered President Donald Trump’s voter fraud narrative and ultimately led to a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building.
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.
In the spring of 2020, a viral slogan purporting that Muslims were purposely spreading COVID-19 in India was disseminated online using recontextualized videos. India’s ruling political party eventually adopted the term, allowing it to spread even further, leading to harassment before critical press and mitigation efforts by social media platforms dampened the campaign.