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The One Where We Lost A Friend - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.

Walking away

Anyone that knows me well enough will know that I am a MASSIVE fan of Friends – its not a unique thing, actually probably quite basic but just to say that I was truly saddened by the death of Matthew Perry over the weekend. Perry’s character, Chandler Bing has remained a constant source of joy with me finding myself putting on an episode when things are rough (so 24/7 basically). Now episodes will be a reminder of his passing and the impact that fame can have on ones life.

You’re probably wondering why this is a topic for the digest, I too was surprised when I was reading through messages from fans and other actors on X that his death had already become a vehicle for a disinformation narrative. This time people were speculating on the cause of his death – sure some may have assumed drugs were involved, suicide perhaps, considering Perry’s openness about his struggles with drug use and the impact it had on his mental health but I was truly surprised when I saw several Tweets (is that what we still call them?) about how his likely cause of death was COVID vaccines.

One Tweet read ‘Drowned in a jacuzzi after having a heart attack? Was Matthew Perry fully vaccinated and triple boosted with the Pfizer Covid 19 vaccines? Myocarditis is one of the dangerous side effects apparently’. Another read ‘Rip Matthew Perry we all know the Covid Shot killed you! Because you were ‘’proudly vaccinated asf.’’!’.

The second Tweet refers to a photo Perry posted in 2021 wearing a shirt with ‘Could I BE any more vaccinated?’ on it to promote vaccines - in reference to how his Friends character’s manner of speaking. I remember seeing the photo at the time but never thought it would then be used to promote anti-vaxx narratives in relation to his premature death.

I think about the disinformation bandwagon effect as a group of people with a specific narrative they want to amplify just waiting around for something to happen. When the most random thing does happen, they immediately claim it, twisting it to fit into their idea of the world.

What this tells us is that anything and everything can be weaponised to bolster a specific agenda or narrative, that’s how social media works. Its important to recognise when an event is being manipulated and used to ‘evidence’ a dangerous theory or opinion.

Its narratives such as these that dilute the integrity of an information environment, make it susceptible to polarising narratives and rhetoric and in this case one that endangers public health.

Perry’s life was always dissected and commented on by the media – his death should not become the centre of an anti-vaxx propaganda machine, his talent and the mark he made on the world is what we should focus on.

Rest in peace, Matthew Perry

More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations

Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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