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.
Since the 1970s, before there was an internet to spread disinformation, activists in the anti-abortion movement have promoted the falsehood that there is a link between breast cancer and abortion. There is no link, but this scare tactic has had enormous staying power, and the internet has provided a networked terrain for it to spread even farther.
In times of crisis, when local, timely, and relevant information is sorely needed, medical misinformation thrives.
This case study focuses on one such rumor: that the antimalarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) were effective treatments for COVID-19. Beginning as cloaked science published as a Google document, the rumor quickly traded up the chain to President Trump and his administration, who amplified it and muddied the waters around COVID-19.
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.
Plandemic, a 26-minute trailer video about coronavirus conspiracy theories, went viral in May 2020 because of distributed amplification. In response to its high viewership, major social media platforms moderatedPlandemic and prepared for the full-length video. The platforms’ efforts slowed the spread of Indoctornation, the anticipated 75-minute movie. Indoctornation failed to achieve the virality Plandemic had.