Tactics of Science Denial
These are tactics that research has found private industries have used to cast doubt on potential harm from industry activity. This gives lawmakers plausible deniability. It creates an environment that allows them not to act in response to the potential harm. ϕ “A” refers to information generated to combat scientific evidence and facts. Δ “B” refers to information generated to promote narratives that are favorable to the industry.
Attack Study Design
To emphasize study design flaws in Aϕ that have minimal effects on outcomes. Flaws include issues related to bias, confounding, or sample size.
Gain Support from Reputable Individuals
Recruit experts or influential people in certain fields (politicians, industry, journals, doctors, scientists, health officials) to defend BΔ to gain broader support.
Cherry-pick data, design studies to fail, or conduct meta-analyses to dilute the work of A
Suppress Incriminating Information
Hide information that runs counter to B
Contribute Misleading Literature
Use literature published in journals or the media to disinform pro-B, anti-A, or distract with peripheral topics.
Host Conferences or Seminars
Organize conferences for scientists or relevant stakeholders to provide a space for the dissemination of only pro-B information.
Avoid the peer-review process to publish poor literature without revealing funding sources, use the journal name to add weight to claims, or minimize the need for peer review among lay audiences.
Employ Hyperbolic or Absolutist Language
Discuss scientific findings in absolutist terms or with hyperbole, use buzzwords to differentiate between “strong” and “poor” science (i.e., sound science, junk science, etc.),
Blame Other Causes
Find related, alternative causes for negative effects that are reported or observed.
Invoke Liberties, Censorship, Overregulation
Invoke laws to emphasize equality and rights for expression of B, despite differences in evidence quality.
Define How to Measure Outcome/ Exposure
Attempt to set guidelines for ‘proper’ measurement of exposures or outcomes while undermining guidelines used in A.
Take Advantage of Scientific Illiteracy
Emphasize scientific obscurity to confuse lay audiences or deliberately disseminate unscientific or false but digestible information.
Pose as a Defender of Health or Truth
Represent the goals of B as health-conscious or dedicated to truth
Ghostwrite, create shell companies and use attorney-client privilege to hide the association.
Develop a PR Strategy
Devise methods for specifically reaching public audiences to spread B messages.
Appeal to Mass Media
Appealing to journalistic balance, developing relationships with media personnel, preparing information for media personnel, and invoking the Fairness Doctrine.
Take Advantage of Victim’s Lack of Money/Influence
Silence or abuse individuals by outspending or exploiting a power imbalance
Normalize Negative Outcomes
Normalize the presence of negative effects to reduce their importance and make them seem inevitable.
Impede Government Regulation
Overwhelm governmental regulatory agencies to slow or stop their function
Alter Product to Seem Healthier
Modify harmful products to reduce their apparent negative effects
Gain inappropriate proximity to regulatory bodies and encourage pro-B policy.
Attack Opponents Personally
Conduct targeted attacks on opponents by undermining their professional or personal reputations.
Appeal to Emotion
Manipulate an audience’s emotions to draw support for claims in the absence of facts.
Inappropriately Question Causality
Argue that correlation does not equal causation despite the presence of strong evidence
Make Straw Man Arguments
Publicly refute an argument that was not made by the opposition
Use qualifications in one discipline to assume authority in another discipline.
Abuse Data Access Requests
Requesting access to data to misrepresent and attack, employing the Shelby Amendment, Freedom of Information Act, etc.
Claim Slippery Slope
Illogically or falsely claiming that there will be disastrous consequences if B ideology is not supported.
Goldberg, R.F., Vandenberg, L.N. The science of spin: targeted strategies to manufacture doubt with detrimental environmental and public health effects. Environ Health 20, 33 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-021-00723-0
Astroturfing: How Hijacked Accounts and Dark Public Relations Faked Support for China's Response to COVID-19
In 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a network of Twitter accounts that had previously posted narratives friendly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) switched their messaging to focus on the pandemic, attempting to portray government actions in response to the pandemic in a more positive light.
Distributed Amplification: The Plandemic Documentary
Plandemic, a 26-minute trailer video about coronavirus conspiracy theories, went viral in May 2020 because of distributed amplification. In response to its high viewership, major social media platforms moderated Plandemic and prepared for the full-length video. The platforms' efforts slowed the spread of Indoctornation, the anticipated 75-minute movie.
Cloaked Science: The Yan Reports
The Yan Report is a misleading preprint that claims COVID-19 was made in a Chinese lab. The author, Dr. Li-Meng Yan, is supported by a partisan partnership between Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, whose media networks and connections led to media coverage of Yan and the preprint.
Stories about "Ukrainian Nazis" were rare before 2014. Then they they surged as Russia's plans faltered.
Audio playback is not supported on your browser. Please upgrade. Hoaxlines gathered data to assess media discussions of "Ukraine" and the term "Nazi." We searched across a decade from June 2010 through July 2022 using the Media Cloud Explorer. We found that content discussing "Ukraine" and "Nazi" surged as the 2014 Kremlin-orchestrated events in Ukraine stumbled.
Understanding how media manipulation works
- Disinformation and Networked Conflicts
- Disinformation as Adversarial Narrative Conflict
- The Lifecycle of Media Manipulation
- The Media Manipulation Casebook
- How people turn the Internet into a digital influence machine