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 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.
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.