Disinformation in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections: Identifying Misattributed Photos and Visual Propaganda against the October 2018 Migrant Caravan

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Description

In the final weeks of the 2018 midterm campaign, the GOP turn-out effort increasingly focused on a caravan of migrant asylum seekers making their way to the United States’ southern border from Honduras.[1] To emphasize the danger posed to the United States, an intense misinformation campaign centered on misattributed images began. Conservative Politicians and right-leaning media pushed out numerous false narratives about the caravan,[2] while right wing Twitter posters circulated numerous misattributed images, copied and described in detail below. There are numerous examples of misattributed image propaganda deployed during this time. Phil Howard of Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project noted that this event had high salience for peddlers of false news. “Social media is awash with pictures that portray an angry mob heading for the US border. . .This kind of event is easy for junk news outlets to turn into a sensational news story.”

Although previous studies have focused on the different networks and diffusion paths for the spread of targeted propaganda, it is also vital to analyze the methods employed in the propaganda itself. This analysis can reveal avenues for response and prevention. To that end, this post documents and analyzes misattributed photos used in this particular disinformation campaign related to a common propaganda themes concerning demonized enemy groups: violence.

Period3 May 2019

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Keywords

  • fake news
  • propaganda
  • disinformation
  • 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections
  • Caravan