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.
During the Oregon wildfires of September 2020, rumors spread locally and nationally that left wing activists had intentionally set the fires based on a series of misidentifications and inference by public officials. The rumor was amplified from partisan influencers on the far right, fake antifa Twitter accounts, anonymous trolling communities on 4chan, the QAnon conspiracy network, and late stage attention from President Trump.
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.
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.
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.