May 26-June 1, 2022 | Issue 2 - Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC)
Christie Hui, CTSC Team
Carlos Hochberg, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff
Robb Elementary School Shooting Memorial
Date: May 26, 2022
Location: Uvalde, Texas, USA
Parties involved: QAnon; conspiracy theorists; Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones; US Representative Paul Gosar; victims of the Uvalde shooting; National Rifle Association (NRA); Twitter; Reddit; 4Chan; Telegram
The event: Immediately after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, false rumors about the shooter’s identity began to spread on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Reddit, and 4Chan, and claimed that the shooter was an undocumented immigrant and a transgender woman. US Representative Paul Gosar shared the false claim in a tweet on May 24, which was deleted two hours after posting. QAnon influencers and conspiracy theorists like the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have recently shared conspiracy theories on Telegram, claiming that the Uvalde shooting was staged before the NRA conference to demonize the NRA and restrict individuals’ rights to own firearms.
Analysis & Implications:
The recent occurrences of US mass shootings will likely encourage QAnon and far-right groups to increase the spread of these conspiracy theories, which would almost certainly prolong traumatic experiences for the victims of the Uvalde shooting and other mass shootings. Denying the reality of the shooting will very likely pressure victims into publicly proving that the shooting occurred. The rapid spread of far-right and QAnon conspiracy theories from unmoderated platforms to popular social media platforms likely indicates a new misinformation campaign to induce paranoia and attract support for their cause from vulnerable audiences. The initial success of the conspiracy theories is likely due to coordinated efforts to share the misinformation.
Far-right conspiracy theory claiming that the shooting was orchestrated very likely invalidates calls for stricter US gun control laws and instills distrust in the US government, particularly the Democratic party, by suggesting that the Republican party and the NRA are victims. This misinformation is very likely made more prominent when posted by public figures, such as politicians. Acceptance of the conspiracy theories by US politicians like Paul Gosar likely adds credibility to the claims and the QAnon movement, which could likely influence public opinion and votes for the upcoming November 2022 US Congress elections. Garnering support for and electing candidates who hold these beliefs will likely influence laws and policies, preventing the creation of news laws that aim to reduce gun violence.
Rumors about the shooter being an undocumented immigrant and/or a transgender woman will likely increase violence and hatred towards immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities. Increased hostility towards these minorities will likely contribute to further discrimination. The xenophobia and homophobia are likely to worsen throughout June, as members of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate pride month.
Date: May 28, 2022
Parties involved: The Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice; Afghan women; male Afghan TV anchors
The event: The Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation ordered all female TV anchors to cover their faces while on air. In response, male TV anchors in Afghanistan have started to wear face masks on screen to show solidarity for women in Afghanistan in a protest called #FreeHerFace, the hashtag has gained significant growth on Twitter over the past week. If the order is disobeyed, the Taliban will advise and guide, summon, and imprison the unveiled woman and sentence punishments for the guardian of the unveiled woman in the first, second, third, and fourth instances of violations respectively.
Analysis & Implications:
The Taliban will very likely inflict severe punishments, such as physical violence, on Afghan women who defy the Taliban’s order. TV anchors’ names are public, which almost certainly enables the Taliban to identify and locate individuals who protest the order on broadcasted TV. There is a roughly even chance of action against the female TV anchors who disobey the Taliban’s order from members of the public who support them.
The Taliban will likely target and punish male TV anchors who protest the order, such as job removal, imprisonment, and physical violence. The Taliban could likely try to control news outlets by replacing the protesting anchors with their own members. For independent news outlets, the Taliban would likely increase the severity of threats and target TV anchors’ family members and friends to gain control over the public narrative. Pro-Taliban propaganda will likely encourage more Taliban supporters and others who agree with the order to enforce the rules.
Adding a hashtag to the protest would likely garner international public attention across social media platforms, which will likely incite protests in other countries to show support for Afghan women. The increased use of #FreeHerFace could likely place it as a top trend on social networks, allowing users to easily find content that uses the hashtag. The Taliban could likely post misinformation with the hashtags to change the public narrative and opinion to favor the Taliban.
________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 Gunman entered Uvalde elementary school unobstructed and started shooting, officials says, CNBC, May 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/26/gunman-entered-uvalde-elementary-school-unobstructed-and-started-shooting-officials-say.html
 ‘Horrifying’ conspiracy theories swirl around Texas shooting, Associated Press, May 2022, https://apnews.com/article/uvalde-school-shooting-government-and-politics-shootings-texas-conspiracy-theories-8d9ac3b61420c6542b11d0da3f0b3a16
 Debunking the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that the Texas school shooting was a false flag operation, Yahoo News, May 2022, https://news.yahoo.com/debunking-baseless-qanon-conspiracy-theory-061853719.html
 How some in Afghanistan have reacted to the burqa mandate, ABC News, May 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/afghanistan-reacted-burqa-mandate/story?id=84590654