“Media Manipulation, Strategic Amplification, and Responsible Journalism”

Linking to this again as it’s the most incisive description of how media and tech are being gamed by far-right extremists I’ve read in a long while. By the always excellent danah boyd.


Contemporary extremism is designed to increase polarization. One tactic is to twist frames. For example, “ideological diversity” has been deployed to suggest that people who hold conservative viewpoints experience a loss of opportunity similar to those who have faced systemic racism and sexism. But this isn’t about the history of economic inequality in the US. It’s a dogwhistle. It’s about using nominal conservatism as a cloak to promote toxic masculinity and white supremacy.


Propelling the term into public lexicon is only the first step. Sure, it’s fun to celebrate an effort to manipulate major newscasters. But a secondary goal is to get people to search for a term that they’ve never considered before. Once news media starts negating the concept of a crisis actor, searches for that term spiked. What did they find when they did that search? For example, in the first days after Parkland, they found blog posts and online conversations staged to mock the news media and gaslight the public.


Using search to your advantage relies on what Michael Golebiewski at Bing calls a “data void.” When people search for a phrase that does not have natural informative results, it’s easy for manipulators to control the results. Take, for example, “did the Holocaust exist?” If no one produces content to combat that frame, what people get when they search for that phrase is conspiratorial. Media manipulators design and exploit data voids. They galvanize around phrases, create digital content around that phrase, and then work to push those phrases into the mainstream lexicon by using news media’s instinct to cover something new. When it came to “crisis actors,” they knew what search results would appear at the top, especially on YouTube.

Baldur's Notes @baldur