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.
After military conflict broke out in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in November, 2020, two contesting narratives designed to influence international understanding of the conflict emerged, playing out largely on Twitter. Based on several months of data collection and mixed methods research, we trace the tactics of the two key online communities participating in these outward-facing advocacy campaigns: the Ethiopian government and its supporters, and Tigrayan activists and their supporters.
During the 2020 presidential election, conspiracists, influencers, and partisans spread a voter fraud conspiracy theory using the viral slogan Hammer and Scorecard, intended to undermine the election victory of Joe Biden.
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.
The Yan Report is a misleading preprint that claims COVID-19 was made in a Chinese lab. The author, Dr. Li-Meng Yan, is supported by a partisan partnership between Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, whose media networks and connections led to media coverage of Yan and the preprint. The case study is an example of how preprints—non-peer-reviewed articles—can be used as cloaked science to muddy the waters during times of crisis and uncertainty.
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.