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Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online

Published May 15, 2017
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Illustration by Jim Cooke

"the spread of false or misleading information is having real and negative effects on the public consumption of news."

  • Internet subcultures take advantage of the current media ecosystem to manipulate news frames, set agendas, and propagate ideas.
  • Far-right groups develop techniques of “attention hacking” to increase the visibility of their ideas through the strategic use of social media, memes, and bots—as well as by targeting journalists, bloggers, and influencers to help spread content.
  • The media’s dependence on social media, analytics and metrics, sensationalism, novelty over newsworthiness, and clickbait makes them vulnerable to such media manipulation.
  • While trolls, white nationalists, Men's Rights Activists, gamergaters, the "alt-right," and conspiracy theorists may diverge deeply in their beliefs, they share tactics and converge on common issues.
  • The far-right exploits young men’s rebellion and dislike of “political correctness” to spread white supremacist thought, Islamophobia, and misogyny through irony and knowledge of internet culture.
  • Media manipulation may contribute to decreased trust of mainstream media, increased misinformation, and further radicalization.

"Online communities are increasingly turning to conspiracy-driven news sources, whose sensationalist claims are then covered by the mainstream media, which exposes more of the public to these ideas."

Illustration by Jim Cooke