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.
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.
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 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.
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.