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.
The Milk Tea Alliance emerged as an online battle that pitted pro-Chinese Communist Party accounts against pro-democracy netizens in Asia. It evolved into a loosely coordinated network of young activists who use media manipulation and protest tactics to counter perceived illiberal governance or authoritarian actions worldwide. This case documents the Alliance's rise from meme war to transnational activism.
In 2020, a vast protest movement purportedly attempting to "#SaveTheChildren" from a non-existent cabal of satanist-worshipping pedophiles grew out of the QAnon conspiracy movement and mobilized people into the streets across the United States and beyond. Along the way, the campaign contributed to the spread misinformation about sex trafficking, and exposed a mainstream audience to harmful conspiracy theories. This case study traces the #SaveTheChildren campaign through its origins to its current impact.
Chileans voted overwhelmingly in October 2020 to scrap their dictatorship-era constitution and draft a more democratic new constitution. In the months before that referendum, a hashtag campaign deluged Chilean Twitter with messages opposing a new constitution and spreading misinformation across the South American country. A media manipulation campaign targeting an election in this way was novel for Chile—and journalists in fact-checkers struggled to respond.
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.
In a critique of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal and corruption and censorship in Malaysia writ large, activist and artist Fahmi Reza posted a widely-circulated image of Najib as a clown on social media. Although the government arrested Fahmi in a bid to contain its proliferation, the meme nonetheless continued to gain traction, becoming a symbol of resistance that is still used to this day.