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.
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.
After Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described her experience during the Capitol insurrection onInstagram Live, critics used hashtags and misinfographics to invalidate her account, resulting in a harassment campaign followed by community mitigation.
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.