30 August, 2021

COVID conspiracy playbook revealed

icon conspiracy,covid-19 disinformation
COVID conspiracy playbook reveals how disinfo is made and spread

Conspiracies like COVID are contagious and can be fatal. Learn to spot conspiracy symptoms and how they're spread.

Conspiracies manipulate people based on their desire to not to be ruled. A conspiracy has a group acting in secret to grab power or make money at the expense of the common good. People are more likely to see conspiracies when they're anxious or feel a loss of control. Conspiracy mongers exploit this desire.

Learn twenty ways that COVID conspiracies are spread in this free app with video demonstrations by conspiracy masters. This free app uses with appreciation content created by Rand Waltzman, a Founding Board Member of the Information Professionals Association. The app also includes a list of organizations that fight disinformation.

Learn how to spot COVID conspiracies and the tricks used to fool the public.

Basic COVID conspiracy tactics

Exploit uncertainty - People turn to conspiracy theories in a crisis. Address some kind of ambiguity or mystery. People demand explanations and want answers quickly. Knowledge gaps combine with a general mistrust of authority. Science, government inquiries and other legitimate forms of information-gathering can be painfully slow. This leaves a temporary void you can exploit. Your target audience is more likely to buy a theory if it "explains” events that are large-scale or important. Simple explanations for important events are not as satisfying as large or elaborate explanations.

Pick a villain - Blame your target audience's favorite bad guy(s) for distressing incidents or trends. A good theory has to feature malicious intent. Remember that nobody cares about a conspiracy theory that features good deeds for humanity. A conspiracy theory with no suggestion of evil won't work. The villains you blame for some evil in the world must be exceptionally powerful and cunning. They should be incredibly intelligent, flawlessly organized and have super-human ability to engineer an incredibly complex chains of events.

Learn to spot COVID conspiracy tactics to better counter them

Exploit tribalism - Tap into your target audience's anxieties/obsessions. Make your target audience feel good about itself. Put down those it sees as rivals. People are attracted to conspiracy theories that satisfy prejudiced attitudes. Distinctions between “ingroups" and "outgroups” can strengthen social bonds. Provide a sense of protection against those your target audience finds threatening.

Exploit the need to belong - Appeal to your target audience's feelings of social exclusion. Negative social experiences help make your audience susceptible to superstitious beliefs that you can leverage. People turn to such beliefs to help them make sense of their negative experiences. Groups with low status because of ethnicity or income tend to be more susceptible to conspiracy theories. Appeal to feelings of being disadvantaged or disenfranchised.

Create a sense of victimhood to spread conspiracy theories

Accuse others of conspiracy - Assess how likely your target audience is to engage in conspiratorial behavior. If the audience believes that in a situation similar to that of the stars of your conspiracy theory, they would behave the same way. Those spreading rumors tend to be suspicious of others' motives. Those heavily inclined towards conspiratorial thinking are more likely to accept mutually contradictory theories.

Getting medical advice from clowns is dangerous to everyone's health

Make it emotional - The success of your theory depends on the lack of your target audience's critical thinking skills or their lack of motivation to apply such skills. Avoid logical proofs and explanations based on rules of proper logic. Emotion-driven “proofs" are more effective more often with most people.

Keep it simple - Meticulously detail the obvious points of your story. Sweep any complexities under the rug with nothing more than generalizations and cheap, non-applicable clichés. Go heavy on metaphor for any parts of your story that require your target to apply any kind of critical thinking. Sweep any complexities under the rug with nothing more than generalizations and cheap, non-applicable clichés.

COVID Conspiracy Playbook

This app was created in the public interest by DemLabs using the free Glide App with content adapted from Rand Waltzman's #Disinformation 101 with the goal of making the material easier to read, search and share. Several cartoons from Political Cartoons are included to illustrate the point and saved in this folder.

The app does not require any software to be installed and can be used on a phone, tablet or laptop. It can be shared freely with this link
Let me know of other conspiracy tactics or disinfo groups that should be included.

Information Professionals Association - Provides a forum for information professionals to interact, collaborate, and develop solutions that enhance the cognitive security of the US and our friends and allies. The IPA serves as the nexus for information professionals interested in the application of soft and hard science, advanced analytics, and innovative technologies to advance security, prosperity, shared values, and international order through the free flow of ideas and information.

Hold companies profiting for spreading deadly conspiracies accountable for their actions

Public corporations have a duty to their shareholders, but what about their social responsibility? Especially when they make money by selling ads with deadly conspiracy theories? Conspiracy mongers would have a much smaller reach and do much less harm without these corporations support.

Spotify is okay with Joe Rogan telling 21-year-olds not to get vaccinated. Rogan said he believes “for the most part it’s safe to get vaccinated” and that his parents are vaccinated. But then he adds: “But if you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go no.” The remarks were highlighted by Media Matters, which published a transcript of Rogan’s April 23rd conversation. Spotify issued a statement saying: “Spotify prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health. When content that violates this standard is identified it is removed from the platform.” - The Verge

"Spotify announced that it was acquiring the exclusive rights to Joe Rogan’s podcast — consistently one of the most popular (and controversial) over the last several years — for the princely sum of $100-plus million. If you’re lucky in podcasting, you get ads at a CPM of $20 or $30, meaning that for every thousand people that show up, an advertiser will pay 20 bucks. So that’s two or three cents... The thing about podcasting is that when you’re in people’s ears, you do create a pretty strong relationship." - Intelligencer

How many ads did Spotify sell to listeners? How much money did they make? How many of them were influenced about getting vaccinated or wearing masks based on that podcast?

Facebook's Most Viewed Article In Early 2021 Raised Doubt About COVID Vaccine. The article, written by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and republished by the Chicago Tribune, was headlined "A 'healthy' doctor died two weeks after getting a COVID-19 vaccine; CDC is investigating why." Many news outlets covered the story, but the Tribune link gained the most traction on Facebook: it was viewed by nearly 54 million U.S. users between January and March, according to the company's report. - NPR

How many ads did Facebook sell to those 54 million users? How much money did Facebook make of it? How many of them were influenced about getting vaccinated based on that Facebook post?

How much is a life worth to these corporations? Who are Facebook and Spotify accountable to in the long run?

TakeAway: Conspiracies like COVID are deadly. Help people understand how they are being manipulated and hold the companies profiting from spreading conspiracies accountable for the harm they cause.


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