Disinformation Production Kit

By intentionally placing learners in the mindset of authors and propagators of false information, and by providing them with guidance on how to be efficient and effective manipulators, they will achieve deeper awareness and understanding leading to quicker and more accurate recognition and identification of disinformation in their everyday life.

MEME

Description: The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

Information carriers (mediums): Social media (general feeds, open discussion groups, closed discussion groups)

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

You can expose an idea, denounce something or simply deride someone using funny images, sentences or videos in the form of memes, created by meme-generators. You can be witty, just for the fun of it, or you can have a more important and impactful objective!

https://imgflip.com/memegenerator/27596988/
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zombodroid.MemeGenerator&hl=
http://memebetter.com/generator
https://clideo.com/meme-maker
https://imgflip.com/memegenerator
https://makeameme.org/upload

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Create a meme inserting emphasized text to represent a pointed message based on typical meme setting - such as a famous person who (purportedly) says something which becomes ridiculous, absurd or extreme when coupled with the image. An example, taken to the extreme, can be related to the COVID-19 emergency, where a soldier kills Chinese people to stop virus from spreading.

RELATED PILLARS

The text in the meme provides an artificially created interpretation of the image and induces a false interpretation of the image. This is done to either strengthen an existing frame, or to shape a new one. The repetitive use of widely recognised images motivates the cognitive process.  The text of the meme provides a strong and concentrated emphasis. A catchy phrase is a key component of  meme-based communication and is often the factor determining whether a meme goes viral or not.

ADVERTISING AND SPONSORED CONTENT

Description: Paid announcements and activities

Information carriers (mediums): Newspapers and magazines; Posters and leaflets; General news/magazines outlets; Private organisations’ websites (articles, video, data)

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

You can create advertising content with false images and unsubstantiated claims using online or offline graphics software of your choice, such as:

https://www.canva.com/
https://www.gimp.org/
https://inkscape.org/

...or simply Photoshop or Paint. The aim is to create texts and images that support a fake reasoning.

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Create an advertising message (image, text, video) for a food company about healthy products ('bio' or 'superfood') intended to be posted on social media. Make false and unsubstantiated claims that these products have some extraordinary properties i.e. a plant root that provides anti-cancer benefits or a herbal tea that makes people lose weight by just drinking it, emphasizing the importance of stopping and sipping it in peace and warmth.

RELATED PILLARS

Advertising is mainly aimed at creating self-consistent frames to allow brands/products communication, and it often makes use of both equivalency and emphasis. Also sistemic causality is involved in the cognitive processes enabled by advertising that is aimed at communicating direct.

RATING AND REVIEW CONTENT

Description: Classification according to rating or rank, or critical article in order to evaluate

Information carriers (mediums): Social media general feeds (posts, tweets, publications); Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; Peer reviewed magazines

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

To create a fake account/website you can use WordPress or similar:
www.wordpress.com

Тo create your content:
https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/
(with Ubersuggest you get information on the successful strategies used by those who deal with your own subject on the web, so you can imitate them, implement them and gain support for your thesis. Learn how to choose the right keywords to make your site/account more and more popular and gain credibility).

To create your logo/naming for social media and platform as TripAdvisor, or Booking, or similar, use:
https://www.canva.com/
https://www.gimp.org/
https://inkscape.org/

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Create a fake webpage for a B&B property (bed and breakfast) which looks like being a part of Tripadvisor, Booking.com or similar web portals. Put lots of stars or certifications on its logo/profile using a graphic software. Create several fake social accounts, or imitate them with a suitable software, and put lot of positive comments on the false B&B. Choose a very high ranked keyword on Ubersuggest. Once you have created/found the phrase with the highest ranking, build a content around it and post the result.

RELATED PILLARS

Disinformation through false rating is an obvious example of using emphasis frames. Highly positive ratings for a product/service generate immediate perception of the product/service being of high quality. Motivated cognition also play a role in influencing the audience of the manipulation because quality as implied by the high ranking, is a key factor in decision-making. We use product/servcie ratings and recommendations when comparing similar products/services and making a choice between the options available to us.

FALSE CONNECTION AND MISINTERPRETED CONTENT

Description: Wrongly interpreted, explained or incorrectly understood content - with or without intention

Information carriers (mediums): Newspapers and magazines; Social media open discussion groups; Social media closed discussion groups; Private organisations’ websites (articles, video, data); Personal websites (blogs, vlogs); Informal school papers exchange arrangements (within closed school/class groups); Dedicated university research repositories (open access); Professional circles’ gossip

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

Take hair colour as a variable that determine a property of interest to you (e.g. women with blond hair and women with red hair for the 'loyalty' property) and create graphs that illustrate a non-existing correlation which corresponds to a false theory which your are proposing. Use this site to choose the form of graphs that may be most useful for your purpose: https://datavizcatalogue.com/home_list.html (List of Data visualisation catalogue)

Tools:
https://elements.envato.com/graphic-templates/infographics
https://www.visme.co/templates/infographics/

and listen to this video to figure out how to create misleading statistics:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYrzzy3cq8

Once you have created your theory and supported it with charts and tables, start spreading it on the web through your social networks by posting fake infographs in newspaper articles, created with the other tools in this kit, or by joining Facebook groups that talk about these topics. Warning: remember to apologise for your fake-content experiment when you finish the exercise!

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Look for some official research/data concerning a specific property or characteristic in your country, and select a variable that experts say is not correlated to the property. Select variables that seem to exhibit a common trend i.e. they increase/decrease together or if one increases the other one decreases. Use one of the suggested tools to create a graph and use appropriate content-editing software to embed the graph in an advertising image with proper color and text. Use plain discourse and do not try to persuade people, but do mention explicitly the original research. Finally, start spreading the image using social media.

RELATED PILLARS

Misinterpretation is mostly connected to systemic causality due to possible ignorance about a topic covered by the content in question. Ignorance can also generate false frames, while misinterpretation can be influenced by the false perception of the world.

PSEUDO SCIENCE

Description: A collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method

Information carriers (mediums): Books, handbooks (print); Social media closed discussion groups; Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; Science/research publications; Science/research publications repositories (paywalled); Personal websites (blogs, vlogs); Handbooks; Personal/informal circles’ gossip

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

Look at the most common characteristics of pseudoscience on Skeptimedia:
http://skepdic.com/skeptimedia/skeptimedia94.html

and some examples here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_topics_characterized_as_pseudoscience
http://skepdic.com/tijunk.html

then create your pseudoscience (a set of ideas put forth as scientific when they are not scientific) and spread it by different mediums

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

"Scientific" report

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Seek a true scientific theory on a given subject and create its alter ego, a pseudoscience (usually partly based on original science) that aims to create misinformation. As an alternative to real science, 'invent' a pseudoscientific theory regarding (a) the healing power of colours; (b) math anxiety; (c) romantic love; (d) sexism; (e) I.Q. enhancement through power breathing, etc. Use the guidelines offered in Skeptimedia.

RELATED PILLARS

All 4 pillars are involved in processing pseudo-science information. The pseudo-scientific line of reasoning has to be rigorous, while explaining false facts to a wide public of non-scientists. Note that this is also how real science communications works, so both frames (science) and motivated cognition (how science looks) come into play. Systemic causality has a role too, as most people would typically not be able to understand enough of the subject matter to pick up and question suspicious data or claims. Emphasis frames are frequently used to heavily focus on a section of the information material that has highest relevance and impact value for the disinformator.

HOAXES

Description: A humorous or malicious deception usually created to generate believe, sympathy or fear, using mechanisms to persuade by false proofs

Information carriers (mediums): Posters and leaflets; Radiostations; Social media general feeds (posts, tweets, publications); Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; General news/magazines outlets; Soundbites (podcasts on podcasts repositories); Rumors and gossip; Personal/informal circles’ gossip

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

Here are some tools which can be used to generate fake news items with the overall intent to create a hoax:
https://www.breakyourownnews.com/
https://newspaper.jaguarpaw.co.uk/
https://channel23news.com/
http://www.noob.co.in/

Design your story and tell it!

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Create a credible story concerning a topic of your choice (as an example, claim that redheaded people are redheaded because of excess of vitamin C in their bloodstream). Come up with several 'authoritative sources' - find content which was created by such sources (scientists, mothers, doctors, investigative jouranlists, nutritionists), take their real words ouf of context, add a few lines from yourself to existing content. Try to inspire the feeling that someone is hiding things from the public - which would justify looking for alternative sources. The number of sources and information items you compile is critical - hoaxes thrive when there are small pieces of truth which are then manipulated and twisted to serve a new purpose. 

RELATED PILLARS

Hoaxes, as with other types of disinformation, are often credible to the extent of the authority and credibility of their source. False authority relies on authority frames, and those who propose and put forward the hoax use motivated cognition as cognitive influence mechanism. Emhpasis is also used in communicating hoaxes - to amplify the authority of the source or the message.

CONSPIRACY THEORY CONTENT

Description: A belief that some covert but influential organisation is responsible for an unexplained event

Information carriers (mediums): Newspaper/magaines outlets; Posters and leaflets; Radiostations; Social media open discussion groups; Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; Peer-reviewed magazines; Public institutions’ websites (articles, video, data); Private organisations’ websites (articles, video, data); Personal websites (blogs, vlogs); Rumors and gossip; Professional circles’ gossip

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

In order to build a conspiracy theory you can create content using fake news generators: at first you have to build a plausible conspiracy theory! Here is a list of common tools used to produce fake content such as images, text, news, etc.:
https://www.breakyourownnews.com/
https://newspaper.jaguarpaw.co.uk/
https://channel23news.com/
http://www.noob.co.in/

A BBC report on a fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread:
https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Create a credible story concerning a topic (as an example, redheaded people are redheaded because of an excess of vitamin C in their bloodstream). Define different types of authority, such as subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event), and use the best suited types to make your story as much credible as possible.

RELATED PILLARS

The cognitive mechanisms that come into play with conspiracy theories are similar to those involved in pseudo science content. All four pillars have to be taken into consideration to understand the congitive processes that facilitate the spreading of this type of disinformation.

IDEOLOGY-RELATED CONTENT

Description: Ideological content that includes interpretation of facts or assumptions, although it is claimed to be neutral, and is often meant to harm ideological opponents

Information carriers (mediums): Newspapers and magazines; Posters and leaflets; Social media general feeds (posts, tweets, publications); Social media open discussion groups; Social media closed discussion groups

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

In order to create ideology-related content as disinformation a variety of tools can be used, depending on the selected information carrier.

You can generate a fake issue of traditional print to demonstrate ideology-related content by using newspaper-style facsimile generator like:
https://newspaper.jaguarpaw.co.uk/

Social media platforms can also be used to generate fake tweets, posts, chats:
https://www.prankmenot.com/
https://www.tweetgen.com/
https://generatestatus.com/generate-fake-instagram-post/

Fake news generator:
https://www.thefakenewsgenerator.com/

Tool to generate a fake speech Subheading a video of a leader or a President (using terms not exactly corresponding to the literal meaning the author wanted to give, but deliberately changed for manipulative purposes):
https://vlc-media-player.it.uptodown.com/windows/download

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Select a well known topic and modify existing claims and statements so that they seem to be supported by a religious, social or political belief. Make sure that the content will be warmly accepted by specific audiences by including enough 'references' and 'proofs' that are ideologically-related and seem to substantiate your thesis.

Alternatively other content types can be manipulated and exploited to use ideology-related content, as is the case when memes or conspiracy theories lean on and relate heavily to a specific ideology.

RELATED PILLARS

We tend to trust ideology-related content if it originates from a source we trust in. Moreover we tend accept statements and claim that are close to (or reinforce) our existing opinion, and even more so if it is related to the religious, political or social beliefs that we identify ourselves with. Political campaigns and religious zealots are extreme examples of using ideology-related content to try and influence others.

Frames and motivated cognition play the major role in processing such information.

IMPOSTER CONTENT

Description: Genuinely pretending to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain

Information carriers (mediums): Social media general feeds (posts, tweets, publications); Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; General news/magazines outlets; Personal websites (blogs, vlogs); Personal/informal circles’ gossip; Professional circles’ gossip

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

Choose a famous person (politician, artist, scientist, etc.) who does not have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account (or they do, in which case your task would be to create 'a double') and create a fake account using their name and some photo available on the internet. For the purposes of learning and as a social experiement, you may also apply this to a friend of yours, and you can both create fake profiles of eachother to evaluate the process and impact.
Facebook.com
Instagram.com
Twitter.com

Use graphic software to modify the image, as:
https://www.gimp.org/

Once this is done, start using the fake account to make claims and promote ideas and opinions, pretending your new identity to be 'real'.

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

You, being a student in an exciting field, create a fake profile pretending to be a person, perhaps a university professor or a scientist, who is an expert in the field. Create authoritative, formally packaged content (e.g. a scientific journal article), then make a list of all the media you could run this content on. You're posing as a professor even though you've only just started studying that subject. A little arrogant maybe, but with a little effort you could be very convicing!

RELATED PILLARS

Imposter content relies on spreading information which is false, but is considered highly credible by the public because it comes, presumably, from a  source with great authority. This is based on the false information being written in a way which seems to fit the frame of usual expertise, statements, and commentary by the person you are pretending to be. As such, it is facilitated by motivated cognition.

DEEP FAKE & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) BOGUS

Description: deep fake combines artificial intelligence and deep learning to mix existing images and videos onto source images or videos in order to mislead; AI bogus relates to content which is intentionally created by humans but presented as an output of an impartial and reliable AI system

Information carriers (mediums): Social media general feeds (posts, tweets, publications); Video clips on social video-sharing platforms; Science/research publications repositories (paywalled); Specialised educational websites (video lessons, etc.)

DIGITAL TOOLS AND INSTRUMENTS

Tools

One of the most famous AI uses in disinformation is the so called deep fake - that is the creation of false videos where real people's speech and facial movement are superimposed on a real or constructed character in a video. One can create easily such false content using:

FaceApp https://www.faceapp.com/
Face Swap Live http://www.faceswaplive.com/
DeepFaceLab https://mega.nz/#!eGRk0KpQ!pwLhNEf3zTuyquO2kZIGICrVc_iSv-ZwrswQah5YYKU
Face Swap Online https://faceswaponline.com
Facerig https://facerig.com (not for free)
Zao https://www.zaoapp.net/ (Android and Windows)

Also AI enabled chatbots can be created easily to spread false content in social media:
https://www.chatbot.com/ (instructions https://www.chatbot.com/help/build-your-chatbot/how-to-build-your-chatbot/)

NB More tools are available in Our collection of tools

Example

INSTRUCTIONS on HOW TO CREATE THE CONTENT

Deepfakes require a bit more technical skills that other types of disinformation. Try to locate suitable software and learn how it works. Then use a video of a real person, e.g. a young rapper who is the rising star of modern music. Use the deepfake sotware to superimpose your own words on the character and have them say these words with their voice.

For AI bogus, annnouce that you have created a really smart AI chat bot. Then power a chat with a simple rule-based bot, or even open a chat room and pretent to be the bot yourself, inviting people to 'test' your 'AI'. Engage in conversation on behalf of the non-existing AI.

RELATED PILLARS

Deep fake technology can be used to spread almost any type of disinformation. The technology itself is of course, neutral, but it is used to fabricate very realistic and convincing video images of real people and to intentionally put words in their mouth that do not correspond to reality. A false video showing the speech of an authoritative person is an imposter content that is used to spread false theories, pseudo-sience, hoaxes, and false ideologies. As a consequence, all four pillars are involved in the cognitive process.

With regard to AI Bogus, motivated cognition is used to imply that a certain process is of AI origin and as such is more reliable, unbiased, or expensive and worth paying more money for.

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