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.
On May 23, 2020, graphic photos and videos of executed Egyptian terrorist Hesham Ashmawy were leaked by pro-regime influencers. The timing of the leak appears to have been deliberately synced with the narrative arc of a primetime Ramadan television series, produced and funded by Egypt’s security services. A detailed forensic analysis suggests the leaks were part of a coordinated propaganda campaign meant to aggrandize Egypt’s military and scapegoat religious fundamentalism.
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.
A misinfographic detailing supposed types of jihad spread from a conspiratorial Facebook page critical of Islam to the social and open web and eventually into the mainstream media when a major outlet aired a segment that included a version of the chart. Based on the evidence and pattern of activity, the amplification of the Islamophobic misinfographic was likely not an intentional campaign, but rather the result of the media cycle, prejudice, and political adoption.
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.
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.