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.
Following the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, 2020, allegations were circulated by his family and fans that his girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, had murdered him. Although his death was officially declared a suicide, this media spectacle not only increased confusion and distrust of the investigations but led to the arrest and harassment of Chakraborty.
In 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a network of Twitter accounts that had previously posted narratives friendly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) switched their messaging to focus on the pandemic, attempting to portray government actions in response to the pandemic in a more positive light. The accounts, many of which exhibited the hallmarks of automation and inauthenticity, were also linked to a public relations firm in China.
“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 the final days of the French presidential election in 2017, an anonymous individual instigated a campaign to discredit President Emmanuel Macron by dropping allegedly leaked emails on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board, claiming they proved Macron was guilty of tax evasion. Campaign participants spread the mix of real and forged documents across the social and open web. A legal media blackout stopped French press from reporting on the documents.