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 Milk Tea Alliance emerged as an online battle that pitted pro-Chinese Communist Party accounts against pro-democracy netizens in Asia. It evolved into a loosely coordinated network of young activists who use media manipulation and protest tactics to counter perceived illiberal governance or authoritarian actions worldwide. This case documents the Alliance's rise from meme war to transnational activism.
In a critique of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal and corruption and censorship in Malaysia writ large, activist and artist Fahmi Reza posted a widely-circulated image of Najib as a clown on social media. Although the government arrested Fahmi in a bid to contain its proliferation, the meme nonetheless continued to gain traction, becoming a symbol of resistance that is still used to this day.
Over the course of 3 years, a mix of pranksters and extremists (right wing) launched a butterfly attack campaign as part of a meme war to muddy the waters in an organic Black Twitter hashtag, and utilized digital blackface to amplify memes workshopped on 4chan. Overall, the campaign targeted Black activists and communities online in an effort to sow confusion, discredit authentic support, and suppress voter turnout for the Democratic Party. This campaign was redeployed several times to correspond to cultural trends or breaking news events.
Throughout 2017, pranksters and extremists utilized parody accounts to discredit the antifascist movement in the US. These butterfly attacks used keyword squatting to capture attention during breaking news events, and tacticallyadjusted over the course of the year. This case study outlines the origin of butterfly attacks that continue to the present day, with news events like #AntifaFires being a prime recent example of a disinformation campaign made possible by the media manipulation campaign outlined here.