On 5 January, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft carrying 177 passengers and crew made an emergency landing in Oregon after a mid-air blowout left a gaping hole in the side of the plane’s fuselage. Immediately after, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered all Boeing 737 Max 9 aircrafts to be grounded until inspected. Boeing’s shares tumbled 9%.
Against this backdrop, users flocked to unmoderated social media to spread hate and misinformation about Boeing. Companies often become targets of misinformation campaigns following crises as adversaries exploit the heightened attention to damage a company’s reputation and erode public trust, often leading to financial and reputational repercussions. The rapid spread of misinformation on alt-social further amplifies the impact of these campaigns, as these channels circumvent traditional fact-checking and reporting mechanisms found on mainstream sites.
Following the incident, Pyrra’s AI detected a spike in mentions of Boeing on unmoderated social, with most posts containing negative language:
On unmoderated social, users pointed the finger at Boeing’s Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, claiming Boeing hired minority groups over competency. Tim Pool, a far-right political commentator, echoed these comments in a Bitchute video, claiming: “Woke, DEI policies are resulting in a failure and collapse in infrastructure and our economy.” This aligns with the far-right’s increasing use of social media to amplify their ongoing anti-woke agenda, raising concerns as online harm frequently translates into real-world consequences. Recent, high profile examples involve far-right and anti-LGBTQ+ groups leveraging social media to spread hateful rhetoricand organize boycotts against companies endorsing Pride initiatives, such as Anhauser Busch and Target. These actions not only triggered financial losses, but also elicited threats of violence and, in some cases, physical attacks against these companies, their suppliers and their employees. It is crucial for Boeing and companies in similar positions to remain vigilant in the identification and tracking of such narratives to safeguard the well-being of their employees.
Users also alleged Boeing and the FAA engaged in corruption, pursuing profits over innovation. This underscores the growing distrust of corporations and the government amongst many within our society - not only damaging Boeing’s reputation, but also undermining public confidence in the aviation industry’s commitment to safety. These narratives compromise the integrity of regulatory oversight and can lead to financial consequences for Boeing as travelers opt for alternative aircrafts, and airlines delay new contracts.
Unmoderated social users (specifically MAGA supporters) also exploited the aircraft blowout to increase harassment and reinforce disinformation about Nikki Haley - a former Boeing board member. Often a target of MAGA supporters, Trump has ramped up disinformation about Haley’s legitimacy to run for President in recent days, and the alleged link to the latest Boeing crisis further helps to validate prevailing resentment and distrust towards Republican politicians by the MAGA movement. Companies, investors, and stakeholders, like former Board member Haley, can fall victim to far-right movements and we expect these issues to become increasingly inflamed acoss American society as the nation edges toward the 2024 election later this year.
We anticipate that this crisis may prompt a rise in the association between the Green New Deal environmental plan and the Great Reset conspiracy. TheGreen New Deal has become a focal point for far-right criticism, as users on unmoderated social, mainstream media, and even some American politicians erroneously characterize it as an attempt to eliminate essential services like “air travel.”
On Bitchute, Tim Pool has mentioned the plausibility of the crisis' association to the Great Reset and the Green New Deal as a way to restrict air travel. Boeing, the FAA, and airline companies may find themselves at the center of the Great Reset conspiracy. Monitoring the discourse on unmoderated social will be paramount to get ahead of potential misconceptions as witnessed in recent discussions:
The increase in hateful rhetoric and misinformation that emerged following the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 crisis highlight the increasing dangers to brand, reputation and physical safety posed by the unmoderated social media ecosystem.
Now more than ever, companies need to be monitoring these sites to:
Understand pervasive narratives and consider how company actions, policies, statements or even in-action can be perceived by these communities
Identify potential problems before they go viral, and
Closely monitor crises to quickly respond and act when necessary
Pyrra’s goal is to make the internet and the world a safer place by identifying and combating hate speech, violent threats, reputation risk and brand damage across the unmoderated and alternative corners of the internet. Should your team need support in monitoring or identifying threats or trends online, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 Bitchute is a video-sharing platform that claims to prioritize free speech and enforces very little content moderation. It is popular among communities who feel their content is restricted or censored on more mainstream sites like YouTube.; Gab is a Twitter clone that claims to be committed to free speech and against content censorship. It is known for its lack of effective moderation around extremist, hateful, and violent content.
6 Bluesky is a Twitter clone, but decentralized, featuring an interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design, and community-specific moderation, using an open source framework.; Patriots is a community in the Communities.win domain, large enough to be treated as its own forum. Communities.win is a community-based platform primarily associated with conservative and right-leaning discussions. It designs its communities around specific topic/interest areas to promote related discussions, often with a focus on political and cultural issues.
7 Truth Social is a Twitter clone launched in response to concerns about content moderation dn censorship on mainstream social media platforms. It claims to provide a platform for conservative voices, emphasizing free speech and open dialogue, and with little-to-no content moderation is a hotbed for all kinds of extremism (including xenophobia, homophobia, anti-semtiism, and political violence.; Great Awakening is a community in the Communitis.win domain, large enough to be treated as its own forum.
8 The Great Reset is a conspiracy that posits that the global elite are the architects of a secretly emerging totalitarian government. The theory frequently incorporates antisemitic rhetoric, as adherents accuse Jews of orchestrating the plot.