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.
During the 2020 presidential election, conspiracists, influencers, and partisans spread a voter fraud conspiracy theory using the viral slogan Hammer and Scorecard, intended to undermine the election victory of Joe Biden.
Over the course of 3 years, a mix of pranksters and extremists (right wing) launched a butterfly attack campaign as part of a meme war to muddy the waters in an organic Black Twitter hashtag, and utilized digital blackface to amplify memes workshopped on 4chan. Overall, the campaign targeted Black activists and communities online in an effort to sow confusion, discredit authentic support, and suppress voter turnout for the Democratic Party. This campaign was redeployed several times to correspond to cultural trends or breaking news events.
Throughout 2017, pranksters and extremists utilized parody accounts to discredit the antifascist movement in the US. These butterfly attacks used keyword squatting to capture attention during breaking news events, and tacticallyadjusted over the course of the year. This case study outlines the origin of butterfly attacks that continue to the present day, with news events like #AntifaFires being a prime recent example of a disinformation campaign made possible by the media manipulation campaign outlined here.
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.