In this latest episode of “The Convergence,” we talk with Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert specializing in election security, digital investigations, and messaging. She is a non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Prior to joining the private sector, she spent a decade as a CIA officer, serving as an intelligence analyst, briefer, and manager. Her regional expertise includes Europe and the Middle East. Ms. Otis is the author of the forthcoming book True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News, to be published on July 28, 2020 by Macmillan Publishers.
In this episode, we discuss the role of technology in accelerating the spread of disinformation; its increasing use by state, non-state, and commercial actors; and the vital role an educated population has in implementing effective intervention tactics and counter-measures. Some of the highlights from our interview include the following:
• Disinformation and propaganda have been a part of the information landscape for a long time, but the current news focus sometimes creates a misconception that it is a new phenomenon. The tools and tactics that organizations use might change with the creation of new media, but the patterns and messages are the same throughout the historical context.
• Because fake news and disinformation are not new phenomena, there are actions that can be taken to defend against it and people can be armed against it. People should feel hopeful that there are actions they themselves can take to become a first line of defense against fake news.
• People should also have a feeling of responsibility that they are part of the solution in being more conscientious about what information they consume and what they share.
• The number of players involved in creating, disseminating, and amplifying disinformation will keep increasing as countries and groups see how effective and successful others currently are at using disinformation as a tool or weapon.
• More foreign governments will be getting involved, but commercial entities will also move into the space as “disinformation-for-hire” with troll farms and black PR firms.
• Most organizations, from DoD to non-profits, are similar in that they do not have a deep enough capability to look at the issue of disinformation. There need to be far more people trained in disinformation investigation and analysis.
• Disinformation investigation often looks for the same trends and patterns from previous years, while disinformation actors have learned from those trends and become ever more sophisticated.
• We need to pay more attention to the actual solutions of how we minimize the risk of disinformation with different intervention tactics, instead of only looking for current threat actors and trends.
• Education plays a huge role in defending against disinformation, especially with organizations providing training to both consumers and journalists to consider information and use OSINT tools.
Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for our next podcast with Molly Cain (founder of GovCity, former DHS Director of Venture, and entrepreneurship expert) addressing talent management, leadership, and innovation on 25 June 2020!
In this latest episode of “The Convergence,” we talk with Lisa Kaplan, who founded Alethea Group to help organizations navigate the new digital reality and protect themselves against disinformation. Ms. Kaplan served as digital director for Senator Angus King’s 2018 campaign, where she designed and executed a strategy to identify, understand, and respond to disinformation. She is one of the few people who has firsthand experience combating disinformation on the campaign trail. Ms. Kaplan has also briefed US, NATO, EU, and G-7 policy makers and officials on disinformation. Previously, she consulted with PwC for the U.S. State Department, and served as a U.S. Senate aide. In this episode, we talk with Ms. Kaplan about weaponized information as a national security problem, algorithmic silos created by social media, and disinformation as the next iteration of warfare. Some of the highlights from our interview include the following: Disinformation is a national security problem manifesting itself in politics. Open source information can be leveraged to create effective digital strategies to counter this rapidly-proliferating threat. Social media algorithms create algorithmic silos: personal echo chambers that create individual realities for users. This method of platform retention is creating more polarized information spaces. Algorithms will continue to get stronger over time, increasing the impact of this problem. Disinformation will become the next iteration of warfare, as it is comparatively inexpensive and easy to use. Bad actors can leverage algorithmic silos to target their disinformation to vulnerable populations. As a result, the government should identify vulnerable populations and develop support plans. The proliferation of fringe and conspiracy media outlets will make it difficult to know which information to trust. We should begin examining the long term impacts for ...
MAJ John Spencer (USA-Ret.) is the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies with the Madison Policy Forum. He served over twenty-five years in the U.S. Army as an infantry Soldier, with two combat tours in Iraq as both an Infantry Platoon Leader and Company Commander. He has also served as a Ranger Instructor with the Army’s Ranger School, a Joint Chief of Staff and Army Staff intern, fellow with the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group, and Strategic Planner and Deputy Director of the Modern War Institute where he was instrumental in the design and formation of the institute. In today’s interview, MAJ John Spencer (USA-ret.) discusses the on-going war in Ukraine, urban warfare strategies employed by both Russian and Ukrainian military forces, the changing character of warfare, and what this portends for the future of conflict. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview: Both with respect to the current Russia/Ukraine conflict and with modern conflict in general, urban warfare strategies are critical.This is true whether the objective requires getting past urban terrain or involves an objective that is urban in nature. Despite Russia’s initial plans falling in line with traditional invasions, characterized by a large mass of forces that are then rapidly deployed in a “shock and awe” campaign, Ukraine’s combined arms approach to defense has prevented Russia from quickly gaining control of critical areas. Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) have been very effective in this conflict due to Russia trading combined arms operations for speed. Russia’s rush to seize ground objectives in convoy without effectively utilizing their air superiority has led to many of their ground assets being destroyed. It is tough to find a recent battle where an urban ...
Today’s episode of “The Convergence” podcast features a conversation with Mr. Doowan Lee, Senior Director from Zignal Labs. Mr. Lee is a National Security expert in influence intelligence, disinformation analysis, data analytics, network visualization, and great power competition. Before joining Zignal Labs, Mr. Lee served as a professor and principal investigator at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he executed federally funded projects on collaborative information systems, network analysis, and disinformation analysis. His article, entitled The United States Isn’t Doomed to Lose the Information Wars, explores Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns and was featured in Foreign Policy last month. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with Mr. Lee: Our adversaries see disinformation as just an effective tool that provides strategic and global reach. We see it as irregular warfare when it is anything but irregular. Disinformation, or the historical term propaganda, has been around forever. COVID-19 has accentuated this threat vector or surface. The Chinese government outlined their national information operations policy in “The Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere” (also known as Document #9): – Nations talking about the spread of open societies are attempting to undermine the CCP. - The CCP will maintain positive control of all media. - The CCP will professionalize information operations. This policy resulted in the development of the “Great Firewall,” the “Golden Shield“ project, and the PLA’s Strategic Support Forces. The CCP and the Kremlin are increasing their coordination on national security activities and, in some cases, are increasing their collaboration. This resulted in a recent joint statement that stated the two governments would work together to undermine disinformation that seeks to destabilize the ...