Following Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, a subset of social media users promoted conspiracy theory around US involvement

Incoming Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry arrives for the funeral of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, July 23, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo)

By Samantha Delman

In the wake of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s July 7, 2021 assassination, a subset of Haitian and international social media users amplified a narrative that the US government allegedly participated in the crime.

While the appearance of conspiracy theories is normal in the absence of evidence-based information during major geopolitical events, when it comes to Haiti and its history of US and international intervention, unfounded online claims can pose a threat to stability in the country as they can add fuel to real-world unrest. While anti-government protests have unsettled the country in recent years, the assassination left…


Amid recent violence, narratives targeting Tbilisi Pride event spread online by domestic far-right groups and Russian propaganda outlets

People dance in front of the parliament building as they celebrate after LGBTQ campaigners called off plans to stage the March for Dignity during Pride Week in Tbilisi, Georgia, July 5, 2021. (SOURCE: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze)

By Givi Gigitashvili

In the days surrounding Georgia’s pro-LGBTQ March for Dignity, far-right Georgian groups echoed Russian propaganda outlets by targeting Tbilisi Pride and supporters of the march.

On July 5, the scheduled day of the March for Dignity, far-right groups held a counter demonstration in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. As the demonstration turned violent and multiple journalists were attacked by an anti-Pride mob, Tbilisi Pride was forced to cancel the March. However, this did not stop the hate groups, which stormed the offices of Tbilisi Pride and civic activism organization the Shame Movement. As a result of this…


Accounts connected to Masaf Institute launch hashtag campaign embracing conspiracies around 1967 attack on US Navy ship

US Navy archival photo of damage to USS Liberty, June 1967. (Source: Wikipedia)

By Hans Hanley and Alyssa Kann

As Alex Jones’ InfoWars and other fringe sites spread conspiracy theories about a military accident that occurred in 1967, a prominent network of Iranian Twitter accounts exploited these same conspiracies to promote antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment in the United States.

On June 8, 2021, two different narratives surrounding the USS Liberty incident were promoted across the Internet. One, which has been circulating for decades, claims that the USS Liberty incident was a false-flag event meant to drag the United States into the Six Day War. On June 8, this theory was promoted anew by…


Civilian videos suggest that Belarusian S-300 SAM systems moving towards deployment along both borders

(Source: @LAndriukaitis/DFRLab via NEXTA/archive)

By Lukas Andriukaitis

As the tension between EU and Belarus increases, new signs of force are being demonstrated by Belarus, this time by sending S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, closer to Lithuanian and Polish borders.

On June 30, 2021, Belarusian civilian-made videos started surfacing on Telegram. In these videos, S-300 SAM systems were allegedly moving and taking positions near the Lithuanian and Polish border. Most of these videos and photos, published by the Belarusian opposition Telegram channel NEXTA, can be geolocated, allowing for tracing of its movements.

Migrants and military maneuvers

The Belarusian state’s forced landing of a Ryanair flight flying from Athens to Vilnius…


Anti-LGBTQ, pro-Kremlin groups, and representatives of the Orthodox Church mobilized people online for violence in real life

Members of media attend a rally in memory of Pirveli TV channel cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, a victim of violence against LGBTQ activists and journalists, in front of the Office of the Georgian Government in Tbilisi, July 11, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze)

By Sopo Gelava and Eto Buziashvili

Note: This article includes quotes containing anti-LGBTQ epithets.

Georgian far-right and pro-Kremlin groups, as well as Georgia’s Orthodox church, targeted the LGBTQ community, its supporters, and the West online prior to the “March for Dignity” — a peaceful march by Tbilisi Pride originally scheduled for July 5, 2021.

Following calls for protests and prevalence of hateful rhetoric targeting the march online, homophobic, violent, and pro-Kremlin groups gathered at the location of the march on the day it was to be held. There, they assaulted journalists and targeted supporters of the LGBTQ community. …


Chinese outlets and diplomats engage in whataboutism as Canada and other western countries turn up the pressure on Xinjiang

Shoes sit on the steps of the provincial legislature, placed there following the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children at former indigenous residential schools, on Canada Day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, July 1, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Shannon VanRaes/File Photo)

By Hans Hanley

As Canada undergoes a national reckoning surrounding the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at schools that were used to forcefully assimilate indigenous children, the discoveries have been weaponized by Chinese state media and officials. They have seized upon the opportunity to pillory Canadian society and the West in attempts to shift focus from the ongoing repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, which the Canadian and United States governments have officially recognized as genocide.

Across Twitter, Chinese officials including diplomats Zhao Lijian and Hua Chunying have hammered Canada’s human rights record, condemning Canada’s attempt to push further investigations…


Politically driven fringes look to pop star’s predicament to validate their conspiracy theories

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks during a protest in support of pop star Britney Spears on the day of a conservatorship case hearing at Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 14, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

By Jared Holt

Conspiracy-driven extremists in the United States have produced content under the banner of the broader #FreeBritney campaign, collectively attracting millions of viewers in recent weeks.

#FreeBritney is an online campaign extending from public debate over pop music star Britney Spears’ mental health and a court-appointed conservatorship that has placed control of her financial assets and estate at the direction of her father, Jamie Spears. The New York Times reports that the #FreeBritney campaign has existed in various forms online for more than a decade and received an influx of attention after a podcast dedicated to analyzing Spears’…


Carlson’s claim that the NSA is spying on him embraced by right-wing media, with radio networks heavily promoting it on Facebook

Fox personality Tucker Carlson speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York, U.S., November 30, 2017. (Source: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

On the night of June 28, 2021, far-right Fox News personality Tucker Carlson claimed on his prime time show that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is “monitoring [his] electronic communications and is planning to leak them to take [his] show off the air” — claims that induced a flood of support online.

Carlson’s claims prompted the NSA to release a statement via Twitter the next day denying the allegations, stating that “Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence…


Outlets claim alleged U.S. disinformation campaign was designed to blame the Chinese government for the COVID-19 pandemic

Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, February 3, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo)

By Hans Hanley

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the origin of the coronavirus has remained unclear. Many scientists have asserted that the most probable source was an animal from a food market in Wuhan, China. In March 2020, though, Chinese state officials pushed back with the claim that the virus was brought to Wuhan by U.S. Army servicemen participating in the World Military Games — an accusation the DFRLab investigated as part of its February 2021 report, “Weaponized: How rumors about COVID-19’s origins led to a narrative arms race.” With renewed interest in the origins of the COVID-19…


The DFRLab joined the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and other experts at RightsCon to explore what a social media peace agreement framework might look like

(Source: PA Images via Reuters Connect)

The frontlines of conflict are increasingly digital. That’s why the strategy session at the recent RightsCon summit on “Mediating in the Digital Age: Integrating social media into peace agreements” was so timely and important. Here’s what we talked about. This is a blogpost by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), Build Up, the DFRLab, and Khadeja Ramali, crossposted from the HD blog.

Mediators traditionally seek peace through agreements that regulate the actions of conflict parties, such as ceasefires where both sides agree to stop attacking each other. …

@DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

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