• The Russia connectionFrom Nord Stream to Novichok: Kremlin propaganda on Google’s front page

    On 24 May, an international team of investigators announced that a Russian anti-aircraft missile was directly responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17). Initial analysis of social media reactions to these announcements indicated that Kremlin outlets were struggling to effectively counter the new evidence implicating Moscow in the downing of MG17. However, over the next week, conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives from Russian propaganda outlets found a foothold on an impactful and unlikely medium: Google’s front page.

  • The Russia connectionWas there a connection between Russian Facebook propaganda and a foiled terrorist attack in Kansas City?

    On 18 April, a jury convicted three Kansas men of conspiring to use “weapons of mass destruction” against an apartment complex where many of the residents were Somali refugees. They were arrested before they were able to carry out their bomb plot in 2016. All three were known to be very active on Facebook, where they called themselves “Crusaders.” Experts wonder whether the divisive and polarizing ads which Russian disinformation specialists ran on Facebook during 2016 motivated the three to plan the attack.

  • Disasters & social mediaAs bad news stories spread on social media, they become more negative, inaccurate, and hysterical

    News stories about potential threats become more negative, inaccurate, and hysterical when passed from person to person, new research finds. Even drawing the public’s attention to balanced, neutral facts does not calm this hysteria. “The more people share information, the more negative it becomes, the further it gets from the facts, and the more resistant it becomes to correction,” says one researcher.

  • RadicalizationInternet search data shows link between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS searches in U.S.

    In ethnically alike communities where poverty levels run high, anti-Muslim internet searches are strongly associated with pro-ISIS searches, according to a new analysis. This pattern, say the authors of a new study, suggests that counterterrorism policies targeting Muslims may do the opposite of what they intend, making these communities even more vulnerable to radicalization.

  • The Russia connectionCold War-era KGB “active measures” and the Kremlin’s contemporary way of war

    Bob Seely, a Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight and a Russia researcher, has just published the first comprehensive definition of the nature of modern Russian warfare. The paper draws a direct comparison between Cold War-era KGB “Active Measures” and the aggression of Putin’s Russia. “From fake news aimed at Europe to the propaganda of RT, and from the occupation of Crimea to the streets of Salisbury, Russia is waging a very modern kind of conflict on the West – as well as on the Russian people themselves,” Seely said.

  • Considered opinion: Truth decayThe era of fake video begins

    By Franklin Foer

    “Deepfake” videos produced by Russian-linked trolls are the latest weapon in the ongoing fake news war. The Kremlin-backed trolls are already experimenting with new video manipulation techniques which use artificial intelligence to create convincing doctored videos. Franklin Foer writes the internet has always contained the seeds of postmodern hell, and that mass manipulation, from clickbait to Russian bots to the addictive trickery that governs Facebook’s News Feed, is the currency of the medium. In this respect, the rise of deepfakes is the culmination of the internet’s history to date—and probably only a low-grade version of what’s to come. Fake-but-realistic video clips are not the end point of the flight from reality that technologists would have us take. The apotheosis of this vision is virtual reality.The ability to manipulate consumers will grow because VR definitionally creates confusion about what is real,” Foer writes. “Several decades ago, after giving the nascent technology a try, the psychedelic pamphleteer Timothy Leary reportedly called it ‘the new LSD’.”

  • Truth decayRegulation or research? Searching for solutions to reduce Truth Decay in the media

    What is social media’s role in the decline of trust in the media? Is government intervention needed to help stop the spread of misinformation on these platforms? These questions were the focus of a recent RAND Corporation event on the connection between the media and Truth Decay.

  • Cyberspace & the lawFailing to keep pace: The cyber threat and its implications for our privacy laws

    “The time has come — indeed, if it has not already passed — to think seriously about some fundamental questions with respect to our reliance on cyber technologies: How much connected technology do we really want in our daily lives? Do we want the adoption of new connected technologies to be driven purely by innovation and market forces, or should we impose some regulatory constraints?” asked NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell in a Wednesday presentation at Georgetown University. “Although we continue to forge ahead in the development of new connected technologies, it is clear that the legal framework underpinning those technologies has not kept pace. Despite our reliance on the internet and connected technologies, we simply haven’t confronted, as a U.S. society, what it means to have privacy in a digital age.”

  • Social media & violenceMoral rhetoric in social media posts tied to protests becoming violent

    Moral rhetoric on Twitter may signal whether a protest will turn violent. Researchers also found that people are more likely to endorse violence when they moralize the issue that they are protesting — that is, when they see it as an issue of right and wrong. That holds true when they believe that others in their social network moralize the issue, too.

  • The Russia connectionThe top three trends we miss when discussing Russian ads

    By Nina Jankowicz

    Last week, the Democrats of the House Intelligence Committee released the trove of over 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) from 2015 to 2017. For the most part, the release confirms what we already knew: Accounts based in Russia exploited America’s societal fissures to sow chaos in the United States in order to weaken our democratic structures, force us to turn inward, and thereby increase Russia’s standing in the world. But taken holistically, three trends emerge that are not evident when only highlighting the most divisive content.

  • Truth decayWhat's trending in fake news?

    Researchers have launched upgrades to two tools playing a major role in countering the spread of misinformation online. The improvements to Hoaxy and Botometer aim to address concerns about the spread of misinformation and to build trust in quality journalism. A third tool — which goes by the name Fakey — is an educational game designed to make people smarter news consumers, was also launched with the upgrades.

  • Truth decayWar on fake news could be won with the help of behavioral science

    By Gleb Tsipursky

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently acknowledged his company’s responsibility in helping create the enormous amount of fake news that plagued the 2016 election – after earlier denials. Yet he offered no concrete details on what Facebook could do about it. Fortunately, there’s a way to fight fake news that already exists and has behavioral science on its side: the Pro-Truth Pledge project. I was part of a team of behavioral scientists that came up with the idea of a pledge as a way to limit the spread of misinformation online. Two studies that tried to evaluate its effectiveness suggest it actually works.

  • Social media & disastersTwitter users likely to spread falsehoods during disasters

    We know that Twitter is littered with misinformation. But how good are the social media platform’s most active users at detecting these falsehoods, especially during public emergencies? Not good, according to researchers who examined more than 20,000 tweets during Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing.

  • The Russia connectionHysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

    By Cassandra Pollock and Alex Samuels

    Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision in 2015 to ask the Texas State Guard to monitor a federal military exercise prompted significant criticism. A former CIA director said Wednesday that the move emboldened Russians to next target elections.

  • The Russia connectionThe Syria swarm: How pro-Kremlin accounts influence Western public opinion

    By Bret Schafer

    As the United States, Britain, and France launched targeted airstrikes against suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria on 13 April, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis predicted that there would be “a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the Assad regime.” Mattis was right.