Maltego’s new TinEye reverse image search Transforms provide journalists, researchers, and investigators with the ability to easily map the spread of imagery online. Starting with an input image, or a collection of images, the tool provides insight into the communities and places where an image has been propagated.
Learn how to track the spread of a single image in Maltego 🔗︎
Here are the download links of the Maltego graphs for the #YesWeCan investigation.
Memetic content, such as memes or smartphone screenshots, subvert access control such as paywalls. These images transform across media formats while spreading between open and closed networks, leading to cross-platform propagation. These mechanisms allow nefarious actors to spread coordinated narratives anonymously without alerting systems designed to combat the spread of coordinated campaigns.
Maltego helps to automate the process of cross-referencing the propagation maps of individual images to find mutual hashtags, profiles, pages, or groups where two or more images within a dataset have appeared. Datasets for popular topics or custom needs can be obtained from memetic influence* by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Disclaimer: Mitch Chaiet is the founder of memetic influence providing tools + intelligence + content for tracking content through the internet. 🔗︎
Learn how to track the spread of multiple images in Maltego 🔗︎
Here are the download links of the Maltego graphs for the #brownberet investigation and the #africanamerican investigation.
What is memetic mis/disinformation?
Memetic information is user-generated content created in an environment that is often not subject to fact-checking or journalistic verification standards. It is propagated in a peer-to-peer manner through mediated channels such as group chats, comment threads, or user-uploaded video, and is propagated to the end viewer through a trusted peer source — like a friend, relative, or mutual chat/group member. (Chaiet 2019)
In the above image, a video shared by a member of a Facebook group claims that George Floyd, the subject of the 2020 US mass protests against police violence, is not dead. The video is composed of other social media posts combined with the creator’s commentary, creating a “playlist” of other social media posts combined into a new single piece of content. This practice is called “screen sampling” (Acker, Chaiet 2020).
User-generated imagery is widely shared on social media. Memetic content, such as smartphone screenshots and internet memes are graphically formatted into bite-sized narratives which are designed to spread through social media groups, comment threads, group chats, etc.
*The examples shown in this tutorial are from Engineering Inflammatory Content: A Memetic Analysis of Russian Social Media Propaganda.
Disinformation campaigns increasingly make use of memetic image assets to spread propaganda. In addition, coordinated actors within loosely organized fringe communities craft social media campaigns to promote their various ideologies. These organizations effectively spread non-factual and inflammatory narratives through the same mechanisms in which authentic memetic content travels.
Weaponized content is designed specifically to visually mimic the existing content generated and propagated by the target demographic. Nefarious actors are sourcing, co-opting, and editing authentic content in order to infiltrate existing target communities on social media. This allows actors to embed themselves within these in-group communities and seed crafted ideological narratives through the disguise of authentic and engaging user-generated content.
Current mis/disinformation research and monitoring tools rely heavily on text analysis, such as identifying URL’s, hashtags, headlines, and articles shared through trackable metrics on social media. Quantifying the number of shares, comments, retweets, views, etc. by which this content spreads through social media results in intelligence and insights regarding which narratives spread the farthest and resulted in the highest impact.
However, memetic content subverts these existing, trackable metrics. Posts sharing an article on Facebook or Twitter can easily be found using its URL or headline. A screenshot of that same article posted on social media spreads the content just as easily but is not as easily tracked. Access to a conversation in a closed, private group chat can easily be unlocked by a screenshot posted to public social media.
Tools and services offered by memetic influence help newsrooms, intelligence firms, and companies analyze the spread of memetic imagery.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have suggestions, questions, or comments. Do not forget to follow our Twitter and LinkedIn pages.
About the author 🔗︎
Mitch Chaiet is the founder of memetic influence providing tools + intelligence + content for tracking content through the internet. Find him mapping disinformation campaigns with teams from the Technology and Information Policy Institute and Center for Media Engagement at The University of Texas.