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.
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 aftermath of the deadly car attack during the Unite the Right Rally of August, 2017, a misidentification of the driver, and subsequent doxing of an unrelated individual, muddied the waters before the actual suspect was apprehended and identified by police. By seeding social media with erroneous evidence collages, an innocent individual was subject to doxing and targeted harassment by far-right extremist operators organized on 4chan and 8chan.
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.
The viral slogan “Jobs Not Mobs” was popularized on social media and conservative press in early October 2018, before official political adoption by President Donald Trump later that month. This campaign formulated through interactions between small social media accounts and influencers with large audiences, working together to popularize a meme linking the Democratic party to violent mobs, and Republicans to job growth.