Digital Narrative Manipulation: Xenophobia Network Investigations

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The Challenge

By using cutting-edge social media analytics we track narratives online, and by looking for coordinated narrative manipulation campaigns we identified a manipulated conversation that was stoking xenophobia and anti-foreigner sentiments and narratives.

Project Objective

Using a three phase approach we aim to undermine and render ineffective these xenophobic and anti-foreigner narratives that have cropped up online.

  1. Continue to track and monitor the #putsouthafricansfirst narrative online.
  2. Publish research reports and news media articles in order to publicise and expose coordinated narrative manipulation campaigns.
  3. Respond by developing bespoke responses to manipulated narratives – this includes working with a broad range of specialists, such as filmmakers, digital content creators and influencers to deploy responses that will undermine, expose and redirect the manipulated nature of this narrative online.

The Results

The DNM program addresses disinformation through three specific steps:

  • Research: We track and investigate instances of narrative manipulation online.
  • Report: We report on narrative manipulation, both on our website (hyperlink) and in news media, such as City Press and Daily Maverick. The reporting phase is an essential part of our work, as it exposes the dishonesty and disinformation being spread online. However, this isn’t enough to stop it as the number of people affected by disinformation is far greater than the number who read our research reports, which leads to the ‘respond’ phase.
  • Respond: This is the part of our work that sets us apart. Many people research and report on disinformation – this is important work – but we at the CABC go one step further and we respond to disinformation. We develop responses to the disinformation campaigns that we see online. How we respond depends on the specifics of the campaign. We created and coordinated a social media response to the #PutSouthAfricansFirst campaign, we led the #WeCare campaign, and we partnered with young South African influencers who oppose xenophobia to challenge the #PutSouthAfricansFirst narrative online. We used truth, honesty and transparency to change the conversation online to a more inclusive one. For different narratives we use different strategies, sometimes we engage in social media campaigns, other times we use radio or even flight TV ads. All of our interventions are informed by a deep commitment to ethical action and knowledge that we need to make compelling and world-class content that engages South African citizens.

Published Reports