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 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.
“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. 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.