DemLabs blog

How to spot someone infected with disinformation.

Brad Pitt races to save virus infected zombies in World War Z. Back in the real world, disinformation is used to turn people into zombies immune to the facts and vote against their self-interest.

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook explains how conspiracy theories are spread by videos like Plandemic, and how to spot when disinformation is being used to manipulate the public.


"We live in a country in crisis, in which many have become detached from reality. What is going on? Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. 

The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking." - David Brooks, NYT (paraphrased)

"Elections can’t render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share... leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to cleave his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies." Will Wilkinson - NYT

COVID-19 Disinformation

"Populist political parties, far-right media influencers, dubious strategic communications firms and the charlatans of scientific disinformation have all found a home for conspiracy, hate and fear on social media. They have been spreading disinformation on social media about the disease and the virus that causes it. They create and amplify conspiratorial content designed to undermine trust in health officials and government administrators, which could ultimately worsen the impact of the virus." - Samantha Bradshaw in Influence Operations and Disinformation on Social Media (paraphrased).

Learn how Plandemic spread disinformation in The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, a free twelve page handbook or watch the nine minute video. This interactive StoryMap summarizes the handbook, video and recent protests sparked by the disinformation.

Conspiracy theories let people
cope with threatening events
by focusing blame on another group.

Disinfo & social media

Samantha Bradshaw explains how disinformation spread through social media is a dangerous influence operation.

  • Identify and exploit pre-existing divisions among society and then using disinformation to sow further discord and distrust.
  • Use of the spread of disinformation to erode the truth and undermine the credibility of international institutions
  • Exploit social media technologies to enhance the speed, scale and reach of propaganda and disinformation.
  • Nudge users toward polarizing information, emphasize sensational, or junk content over news and other authoritative info.
  • Liking, sharing, retweeting with automated accounts to generate a false sense of popularity, momentum or relevance.

"Combatting disinformation and propaganda has been a constant game of whack-a-mole. Rather than focusing solely on the content, we need to look at the deeper systemic issues that make disinformation and propaganda go viral in the first place. This means thinking about the features of platforms (like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter) that enhance or exacerbate the spread of harmful content online."

Disinfo symptoms

"Exposing the techniques of conspiracy theorists is the key to inoculating ourselves and others from being misled. Understanding and revealing the techniques of conspiracy theorists is key to inoculating yourself and others from being misled". Look for these signs to spot someone who maybe infected with the disinformation bug. - Conspiracy Theory Handbook

  • Is their logic contradictory?
  • Is there an overriding suspicion of official explanations?
  • Do they see some nefarious intent?
  • Do they still have the unshakable belief that something must be wrong?
  • Is there a persecuted victim?
  • If there's no evidence for the theory, is that taken as evidence for it?
  • If you provide evidence disproving the conspiracy theory, are they immune to the evidence?
  • Do they assume that random events are all part of a bigger pattern?

Ten disinformation resources


Come gather around people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
- Bob Dylan

Disinformation is a cruel tactic to grab power by tricking people into voting against their self-interest and jeopardizing their health. Learn how the tactic is used and how to counter it.


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