Presenting legitimate media with false context to support a desired narrative

One way you could convince people something happened (when it actually didn’t) would be to create and share a fake video, image or quote. The problem is, it can be pretty hard to falsify a convincing piece of media, so one strategy used to avoid going through all that effort is just to take some real content and create a false context matching the desired narrative.

A good way to get a better understanding of how this might work is by seeing it in action, so let’s do that. This image shows a pigeon which got a plastic bag stuck on its head … well, whole body really:

Members of the Birds Aren’t Real community claim that birds are actually government drones used to spy on us. One user took the above image and reposted with their own inauthentic context, claiming that government operatives forgot to properly unpack the bird drone:

Source: /r/birdsarentreal – They are getting sloppy, this one isn’t even unpacked! 12.5k upvotes, 87 comments

This image has been taken out of its original legitimate context (the bird got stuck in a bag), and presented as evidence of the desired narrative (birds are drones, and this one wasn’t unpacked properly). This tactic meant the user could create a story backed up by imagery, without having to make the image.

Real World Examples

At the time of writing we are in the second day of Russia’s (2022) invasion of Ukraine. Here are some examples I am seeing where investigators uncover the use of False Context surrounding the subject:

(For anyone counting, that’s 43 million views across just three pieces of media shared with false context).

Further Reading

Relevant Content from the Article Archives

This table contains links to articles related to the False Context information disorder category:

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