• Election securityFBI Director Warns of “Drumbeat” of Russian Disinformation

    By Jeff Seldin

    FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday warned lawmakers that Russia is not letting up in its efforts to sway the outcome of the November presidential election by trying to hurt the campaign of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Wray, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, described the Kremlin’s influence operations as “very, very active” on social media, on its own state-run media and through various proxies. “What concerns me the most is the steady drumbeat of misinformation and amplification of smaller cyber intrusions,” Wray said. “I worry they will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of (among) American voters.” “That would be a perception, not reality. I think Americans can and should have confidence in our election system and certainly in our democracy,” he added.

  • ExtremismNetwork-Enabled Anarchy: Excerpts from the Report

    The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), a non-partisan organization, developed a tool to analyze extremist discourse on social media, and earlier this year used it to analyze the growing threat posed by the far-right, anti-government Boogaloo Bois movement. NCRI has now released a study of the increasingly more extreme social media discourse by leftist extremists.

  • ExtremismPortland and Kenosha Violence Was Predictable – and Preventable

    By Cynthia Miller-Idriss

    The U.S. reached a deadly moment in protests over racial injustice, as back-to-back shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, on 25 August and 29 took the lives of three people and seriously injured another. It was tragic – but not surprising. The shooters and victims in Kenosha and Portland reflect an escalating risk of spontaneous violence as heavily armed citizen vigilantes and individuals mobilize at demonstrations and protests.

  • Brief Takes // By Ben FrankelWords and Deeds: Increasingly Militant Social Media Discourse by Far-Left Extremists

    The increasingly militant social media discourse by anarcho-socialist extremists is worrisome, even if far-left extremists are not viewed by security experts inside and outside government as posing as much of a domestic terrorism threat as do far-right extremists and Islamist jihadists — at least not yet. A new report by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) – a sequel to an earlier report on Boogaloo Bois — analyzes the increasingly militant languages of social media postings by anarcho-socialists, noting that on the far-right violent words preceded violent actions. It may be the case on the far-left as well.

  • China syndromeTikTok and WeChat: Curating and Controlling Global Information Flows

    By Fergus Ryan, Audrey Fritz, and Daria Impiombato

    “The Chinese state has demonstrated a propensity for controlling and shaping the information environment of the Chinese diaspora—including via WeChat,” three researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in a new report. “The meteoric growth of TikTok has now put the CCP in a position from which it can shape the information environment on a largely non-Chinese-speaking platform—with the help of the highest valued start-up in the world and its opaque advanced AI-powered algorithm”: Excerpts from the report.

  • China syndromeHow China Ramped Up Disinformation Efforts During the Pandemic

    By Joshua Kurlantzick

    China once shied away from the aggressive, conspiratorial type of disinformation favored by Russia, but Beijing has increased its manipulation of information as well as disinformation efforts around COVID-19. The goal of manipulating factual information and spreading disinformation—or willfully false information— is to distract from the origins of the virus, highlight the failures of the United States, damage democracies, and promote China as a global leader. But its strategies have had mixed results.

  • The Russia connectionRussia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem

    Last month, the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) issued an important report – Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem – describing in detail the multifaceted, systemic, sustained, and effective disinformation and propaganda campaign which Russia has been conducting against the West for nearly a decade. The many different elements of this campaign are well coordinated and synchronized for maximum effect – so much so, that the GEC rightly calls it an “ecosystem” of disinformation and propaganda.

  • The Russia connectionPillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem: Excerpts

    From the report: “The ecosystem consists of five main pillars: official government communications, state-funded global messaging, cultivation of proxy sources, weaponization of social media, and cyber-enabled disinformation. The Kremlin bears direct responsibility for cultivating these tactics and platforms as part of its approach to using information as a weapon. It invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives.”

  • Election securityDHS: Russia “Amplifying” Claims of Mail-In Voter Fraud

    New analysis by DHS’s intelligence unit, released Thursday to federal and state law enforcement agencies, warned that “Russian malign influence actors” have targeted the absentee voting process “by spreading disinformation” since at least March. ABC News has obtained the document, which says that Russia has sought to “amplify” concerns over the integrity of U.S. elections by promoting allegations that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud. This Russian campaign of disinformation replicates and reinforces President Donald Trump’s own campaign of unfounded claims about the integrity of mail-in voting.

  • Conspiracy theoryWhy the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” Is Still Pushed by Anti-Semites More Than a Century after Hoax First Circulated

    By Stephen Whitfield

    Surely no outright forgery in modern history has ever proved itself more durable than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, concocted by Tsarist police in the early twentieth century. Why is it that this demonstrably false document continues to hold sway today? Perhaps the simplest explanation is human irrationality, which neither education nor enlightenment has ever managed to defeat.

  • Truth decayCOVID-19 Revealing the Impact of Disinformation on Society

    The COVID-19 pandemic has provided new evidence of the impact of disinformation on people’s behavior, according to a new report, which examines the causes and consequences of disinformation. The researchers also argue there has been too much focus on blaming social media for spreading false content, whist neglecting the spread of misleading content in traditional media by political actors.

  • Optimal social networksOptimal Social Networks of No More Than 150 People

    “It takes a network to defeat a network,” wrote retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. U.S. Army researchers agree, and in a new research they argue that new rules of engagement on the battlefield will require a deep understanding of networks and how they operate according to new Army research. Researchers confirmed a theory that find that networks of no more than 150 are optimal for efficient information exchange.

  • Conspiracy theoryQAnon’s Growing Threat to the November Election and to Democratic Processes Worldwide

    Russian government-affiliated organizations are playing an increasing role amplifying and disseminating conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon, raising concerns not only of interference in the coming November U.S. election. There were no signs Russia had a hand in the early days of the QAnon movement, but the growth of the movement’s following have persuaded Russia’s disinformation and propaganda specialists that spreading QAnon’s conspiracies further would help Russia achieve its goal of weakening America by sowing division and acrimony; deepening polarization; discrediting democracy; and undermining trust in the government; judiciary; courts; and the media.

  • Conspiracy theory“A Small Group of Manipulators, Operating in the Shadows, Pull the Planet’s Strings”

    “You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight. You know all this because you believe in Q”: Adrienne LaFrance,“The Prophecies of Q.”

  • Conspiracy theoryQAnon Conspiracies on Facebook Could Prompt Real-World Violence

    As Facebook continues to grapple with hate speech and violent extremism across the platform, QAnon conspiracy theorists are using public and private Facebook pages and groups to spread disinformation, racism, and thinly veiled incitement to violence. This conspiracy is estimated to have a Facebook audience of millions of users.