Don’t believe everything you read about the man in this photo

“I think this gives them a form of power,” she said of the people who post her picture, often with accounts meant to make it appear that they belong to news outlets. “Messing around with someone or making someone sick, or saying it’s just awful that they’re so desensitized that it gives them a sense of belonging.”

But what happens next is the even more insidious danger, Ms. Phillips said: The joke is taken literally by the considerable part of people who are already prepared to destroy the institutions of society.

“It just exacerbates all the conspiratorial stuff we have around and puts us on a dangerous course,” he said. “it further erodes our ability to be grounded in empirical reality itself.”

Such jokes have a long historical precedent, the researchers said. a man a comedianwas falsely named as the gunman in several mass killings, including a shooting in San Bernardino, California in 2015.

“I don’t think you can find a significant event where that doesn’t happen later – it’s almost a reflex at this point,” said Mike Caulfield, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. “Nowadays, people are promoting false flag theories and crisis actors 20 minutes after the event, and in very stereotypical ways.”

Mr. Caulfield described the cycle as “quasi factory production, running like a clock”.

In the case of Mr. Jordan, his photo reappears in social media posts of accounts that mimic the news and even copy their logos. A report last year that “Bernie” was executed by Taliban soldiers in Kabul was posted on Twitter by @CNNAfghan, a fake account that Twitter suspended, and then amplified by @BBCAfghanNews, another suspended account, which cited “multiple reports” of Death.

“Bernie” was also described as the victim of a tornado in Kentucky in 2021 and an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. @FoxNewsUkraine, a fake account with 17 followers also suspended, said this year of being a “right-wing journalist” who was killed in Mariupol, while @RussiaCnn, who has two followers, said it was a pilot who was shot down while flying to Russia.