Trading up the chain is the process of getting a story from a small, local, or niche platform or media outlet to a more popular, national news service.1 If an article or post gains enough traction on the small, local, or niche platform, it may be reported on by a larger site—either to be promoted or debunked.2 Regardless, the additional coverage spreads the original story to a new and larger audience. If successful, a line from a blog post or tweet can become national news.
Frequently, trading up the chain depends on a story not being fact-checked3 or amplification on social media where likes, shares, and retweets increase a story’s visibility and can “potentially reflect a tacit endorsement” of a post.4
P.M. Krafft and Joan Donovan describe a path of trading up the chain “from far-right blogs and forums to conservative media personalities on Twitter or YouTube to television media outlets like Fox News.”5 Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis describe Trump as a major amplifier of stories that have been traded up the chain: “If he tweeted about a conspiracy theory or made a false claim at a rally, it was considered newsworthy because of his candidacy.”6
Trading up the chain is described in Ryan Holiday’s 2012 book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.7
Disinformation campaigns using trading up the chain as a strategy can be found in "Trading Up the Chain: The Hydroxychloroquine Rumor," "Copycat Websites: The Endless Mayfly Network," "Viral Slogan: Hammer and Scorecard," "Targeted Harassment: The Ukraine Whistleblower," "Viral Slogan: 'It’s OK To Be White,'" "Viral Slogan: 'Jobs Not Mobs,'" "Misidentification: Republic of Florida Hoax," "Misidentification: How The #Antifafires Rumor Caught On Like Wildfire," and "Cloaked Science: The Yan Reports."
Trading up the chain is a Casebook value under the "Strategy" variable in the code book.
- 1. Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis, “Media Manipulation and Online Disinformation,” Data & Society, May 15, 2017, https://datasociety.net/library/media-manipulation-and-disinfo-online/.
- 2. Marwick and Lewis, “Media Manipulation and Online Disinformation.”
- 3. Marwick and Lewis.
- 4. P.M. Krafft and Joan Donovan, “Disinformation by Design: The Use of Evidence Collages and Platform Filtering in a Media Manipulation Campaign,” Political Communication, March 5, 2020, 37(2): 194-214, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10584609.2019.1686094.
- 5. P.M. Krafft and Joan Donovan, “Disinformation by Design: The Use of Evidence Collages and Platform Filtering in a Media Manipulation Campaign.”
- 6. Marwick and Lewis, “Media Manipulation and Online Disinformation."
- 7. Ryan Holiday, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator (Portfolio, 2012), https://ryanholiday.net/trust-me-im-lying-confessions-of-a-media-manipulator/.