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.
“Endless Mayfly” was an operation that created inauthentic websites spoofing established media outlets and online personas to spread false and inflammatory content targeting Saudi Arabia, the US, and Israel from at least April 2016 to November 2018.1 The operation astroturfed a false grassroots organization purporting to advocate against Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism, and seeded related false content to activists and journalists, which in some instances was traded up the chain to the mainstream media.
In December 2017, congressional candidate Omar Navarro instigated a media manipulation campaign to denigrate his political opponent, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Exploiting prejudice and wedge issues via a forgery, his campaign was seeded by pseudonymous participants and right-wing influencers online. After Waters formally challenged the harassment on Twitter, the campaign was amplified by mainstream press, and investigated by the FBI.
“It’s okay to be white” (IOTBW) is a viral sloganadopted and popularized by a variety of reactionary communities beginning in 2017. The campaign to promote the slogan exploited the wedge issue of white racial consciousness and identity, utilizing memes, flyering campaigns, and influencers to trade the phrase up the chain to garner significant press attention. Campaign organizers have redeployed the viral slogan strategically multiple times over the years and it continues to be used.
In the final days of the French presidential election in 2017, an anonymous individual instigated a campaign to discredit President Emmanuel Macron by dropping allegedly leaked emails on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board, claiming they proved Macron was guilty of tax evasion. Campaign participants spread the mix of real and forged documents across the social and open web. A legal media blackout stopped French press from reporting on the documents.