Description

Contemporary propaganda and disinformation no longer serves traditional functions of controlling populations and influencing decisions. Rather, in the 21st Century security environment, information warfare campaigns assault adversaries by affecting citizenries political will, manipulating domestic public opinion, and eroding socio-political institutions that are the fundamental fabric of democracy. In this context, effective counter-propaganda operations rely on knowing what narratives are shaping public understanding of the world around them and the cultural context in which they develop allegiances, political positions and voting behavior. The US and its allies need to know what frames are being used to guide, shape and warp the interpretation of facts and events; and we need to know the operational dimensions of exploitation of networks of information flow that magnify these disinformation campaigns.

Europe is a critical battleground in contemporary information warfare, with the key adversary being Russia. Russian efforts have successfully destabilized European democracies (e.g., Ukraine) and institutions (e.g., European Union) and thus pose an immediate threat to US interests and allies. Europe also provides a unique laboratory for the analysis and reporting on adversarial/Russian tactics, techniques and procedures of information warfare because in one region there are three types of target countries: the near abroad (e.g., Baltics, Moldova, etc.) which share political and cultural legacy and therefore exhibit more overt information warfare; legacy Cold War opponents such as United Kingdom exhibiting more subtle and covert information warfare in the guise of activating existing social and political divisions; and middle ground countries (e.g., Sweden, Norway, Finland).

The tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of foreign information warfare can be divided into two domains that are subject to reliable and scalable automated analysis: the ideological domain (the content of disinformation and how it is formulated to shape comprehension and interpretation leveraging cultural referents and cognitive processes) and the operational domain (the use of botnets, troll farms and other techniques to accelerate information cascades that dominate exposure to intended target audience). This proposal targets both domains, leveraging established experience with large scale, computationally assisted analysis of narrative, framing, and Pathological Social Media structures. This proposal addresses Program Objective #2 with analysis of three countries (UK, Latvia, Sweden). We will (a) collect and analyze a large corpus of texts from mainstream news media and blogs, and discover prominent narratives and adversarial framing in this corpus; (b) conduct proven Pathological Social Media analysis on Twitter to identify patterns indicative of intentional/managed information cascades, and detect such events, and (c) using the narrative/framing analysis to identify relevant keywords in Twitter, and applying the cascase techniques to networks of mainstream media articles derived from common frames and named entitiesidentify key tactics used by the adversary to erode political support, exacerbate social divisions, and dismiss, distract, distort, dismay, divide and deny.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/5/189/4/19

Funding

  • DOS: Bureau of Public Affairs (PA): $497,536.00

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information warfare
tactics
disinformation
narrative
twitter
propaganda
social media
allies
Sweden
campaign
democracy
media analysis
Moldova
interpretation
political support
Latvia
event
voting behavior
information flow
Ukraine