Multi-Level Models of Covert Online Information Campaigns

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Who conducts influence operations? Who is being targeted by influence campaigns? What information maneuvers are being used to exert influence? What is the impact of difference maneuvers? How can these maneuvers be countered?

Our team is working with researchers at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, University of Regina, Canada, and the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab to examine influence operations in social media tin the Indo-pacific region using a multi-dimensional, multi-level, and multi-methodological approach with the goal or developing the foundational theory and methods that will enable semi-autonomous intelligent assistants for reasoning about information that will support DOD PAO and IO analysts. Our secondary goal is to test these theories and methods as we provide actionable insights into ongoing influence operations in the Indo-Pacific region. We have three supporting objectives:

  1. Advance Understanding: First, to advance scientific understanding of how covert actors use information maneuvers to influence populations, spread disinformation, promote polarization, and generate mass hysteria but using multiple countries in the Indo-Pacific region. As such we aim to develop new theoretical insights about the process of conducting information maneuvers, as well as new empirical insights about activities in the Indo-Pacific region. We propose to intentionally work across diverse countries and different media in general and through the Dark Web (Twitter, YouTube, Blackbook, TOR, Facebook, blogs, Reddit) to increase the robustness of this understanding cross-culturally and cross-platform. We ask – How do covert actors conduct information maneuvers on-line in the Indo-Pacific region at the present time? How significant a role does the Dark Web play in social media influence campaigns in the Indo-Pacific region? What implications does this have for information maneuvers elsewhere in the world?,
  2. Emotionally Intelligent Assistants: Second, we set out to produce a set of validated and salable metrics and algorithms that provide emotionally-intelligent assistance to human analysts seeking to identify and characterize information maneuvers by covert actors in diverse cultural and social media settings. We aim to develop technologies that consider not just patterns in data, but emotionally-based patterns in changes to the social networks and narratives being manipulated in the new information environment. We aim to develop technologies that are applicable in the wild with real data, and not just lab generated training sets. We ask – What technology is needed to assess and measure covert influence campaigns using the Dark Web? Will emotional-intelligence improve our ability to identify, characterize, and assess the impact of information maneuvers by covert actors cross-culturally? ,
  3. Counter-maneuver Assessment: Third, to develop a principled approach for assessing counter-maneuvers. A counter-maneuver is a set of actions that if performed effectively will counter or mitigate the impact of an information maneuver; e.g., a counter-maneuver to an intimidation campaign may be to remove the intimidators. We aim to develop and use an agent-based simulation, DELOS, instantiated with real data, as a platform for assessing the potential impact of various counter-maneuvers. We ask – What counter-maneuvers can be used to mitigate or counter the effects of covert information maneuvers? Which aspects of these counter-maneuvers, if any, are likely to be culturally and platform invariant?