Our picksPolicing Online Extremism | How Disinformation Evolved in 2020 | Countering Small Drones, and more

Published 8 January 2021

·  Sen. Warner Accuses White House of Weakening Statement Attributing SolarWinds Hack to Russia

·  Online Extremism “Cannot Be Policed,” Says Head of U.K. Counter-Terror Police

·  How Disinformation Evolved in 2020

·  FBI, DHS Ignored Far-Right Dangers Ahead of Trump Riot

·  What Experts on Extremism Want From the Biden Administration

·  State Department Approves Creation of Cyber Bureau

·  Pentagon Releases Strategy for Countering Small Drones

·  ‘She was deep into it’: Ashli Babbitt, killed in Capitol riot, was devoted conspiracy theorist

·  Chinese Students in the US Caught Up in Geopolitics and Trump’s Immigration Crackdown

Sen. Warner Accuses White House of Weakening Statement Attributing SolarWinds Hack to Russia (Sean Lyngaas, Cyberscoop)
An influential Senate Democrat who will soon chair the intelligence committee on Thursday accused the White House of “water[ing] down” the U.S. government’s public statement linking a hacking campaign to Russia, and suggested more high-profile corporations had been breached.
“We know who it was,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in reference to the espionage campaign in which attackers leveraged the software built by federal contractor SolarWinds to compromise multiple federal agencies. “And this White House again has watered-down the attribution statements that should have been made in one more outrageous effort to constantly underestimate and underreport on Russian activity.” He spoke at an event held by the Aspen Institute.

Online Extremism “Cannot Be Policed,” Says Head of U.K. Counter-Terror Police(Lizzie Deardan, Independent)
Assistant commissioner Neil Basu says hateful posts must be prevented to stop police being ‘overwhelmed’

How Disinformation Evolved in 2020 (Josh A. Goldstein and Shelby Grossman, Brookings)
In 2019, and again in 2020, Facebook removed covert social media influence operations that targeted Libya and were linked to the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. The campaigns—the first exposed in October 2019, the second in December 2020—shared several tactics: Both created Facebook pages masquerading as independent media outlets and posted political cartoons. But by December 2020, the operatives linked to Prigozhin had updated their toolkit: This time, one media outlet involved in the operation had an on-the-ground presence, with branded merchandise and a daily podcast.
Between 2018 and 2020, Facebook and Twitter announced that they had taken down 147 influence operations in total, according to our examination of their public announcements of disinformation takedowns during that time period. Facebook describes such operations as “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and Twitter dubs them “state-backed information operations.” Our investigation of these takedowns revealed that in 2020 disinformation actors stuck with some tried and true strategies, but also evolved in important ways, often in response to social media platform detection strategies. Political actors are increasingly outsourcing their disinformation work to third-party PR and marketing firms and using AI-generated profile pictures. Platforms have changed too, more frequently attributing takedowns to specific actors.