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 active crisis of the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, a photo misidentifying the alleged perpetrator moved from 4chan to the mainstream media when Infowars picked up the image, muddying the waters around the actual shooting. The misidentification led to targeted harassment of the individual in the photograph, who was not associated with the shooting.
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.
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.
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.