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.
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.
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.
“It’s okay to be white” (IOTBW) is a viral sloganadopted and popularized by a variety of reactionary communities beginning in 2017. The campaign to promote the slogan exploited the wedge issue of white racial consciousness and identity, utilizing memes, flyering campaigns, and influencers to trade the phrase up the chain to garner significant press attention. Campaign organizers have redeployed the viral slogan strategically multiple times over the years and it continues to be used.