Links to resource and reference information for “The Weaponization of Social Media” presentation.
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Most of these references are related to Russia’s information warfare campaign against the United States. They are not the only state deploying these tactics. We are also seeing activity from Iran and China.
As you read these materials read to learn the techniques and tactics and how to identify them from wherever they may originate.
Facebook Internal Documents Published by UK Parliament
Link to UK documents – Link to the documents as released by UK parliament. The first page is a good over view of key take aways from the documents.
- The New York Times: Facebook Emails Show Its Real Mission: Making Money and Crushing Competition — Android users. Make special note of the first point in this article.
- Reuters: Facebook CEO backed sharing customer data despite second thoughts: documents – This article examines the Facebook decision that allowed 3rd party apps, like the quiz apps Cambridge Analytica used, to collect data on Facebook users.
- This Twitter thread digs into more of the technical side of Facebook’s interactions with potential partners and competitors as well as a deeper look at their efforts to circumvent Android privacy warnings.
- Stay tuned. It looks like more will be revealed soon.
Building Digital Resilience
The Atlantic: The real roots of American rage — One of the keys to developing digital resilience is to develop resistance to emotional manipulation, i.e. having your anger or fear triggered. This is an excellent piece examining anger, when it is helpful and how we have become marinated in corrosive anger.
Vetting and debunking fake photos – Doctored photos are a powerful disinformation tactic. A picture is worth a thousand words and when it triggers an anger response in an effort to spread false information it is even more powerful. Using Google reverse image search you can find original source photos of doctored photos and debunk fake photos.
Teaching digital resilience to K-12 – Children today only know a world that includes the online world. Teaching them to be safe and to be good citizens online is just as essential as teaching them skills for the “real” world. And in their experience the online world is just as real as their offline world.
Game: Get Bad News – After reading the article above about how to inoculate against fake news play this game to try to accumulate the most online minions you can using nefarious tactics
New York Times: Think You Can Spot a Deceptive Facebook Post? – Take this quick quiz to see if you can identify which of these Facebook posts is authentic and which is the product of Russian active measures. Whether your selection is right or wrong pay close attention to the analysis of each post. The explanations are rich information on both big picture of Russian influence campaigns against the United States and specific details on identifying fake posts.
The 10 Habits of Logical People – Fake news and divisive memes are designed to trigger anger and fear. Studies show we lose several IQ points in those states. Train your mind to turn to logical thinking habits when reviewing online content
DFRLab: Defining and Defeating Fake News – Provides an excellent information of how fake news is bounced around the internet to give it a foothold. Provides clear explanations of the difference between disinformation, misinformation and fake news
Lawfare Blog: How to Read a News Story About an Investigation: Eight Tips on Who Is Saying What-“Sources say”, but what does that really mean? This article breaks down the code of how sources are referenced in news articles.
NPR: Learning To Spot Fake News – Start With a Gut Check– A great article on specific strategies to learn to spot fake news. With a little practice these techniques quickly become second nature. If you share one of these links to your Facebook page make it this one.
Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab – The DFRLab tracks global disinformation campaigns, fake news stories, covert military developments, and subversive attempts against democracy while teaching the public skills to find and expose attempts to pollute the information space.
Stop Fake – This site focuses on disinformation targeted at Ukraine. One way to learn what is coming is to study what has happened and what is happening in Ukraine. It is Russia’s laboratory. Tactics that work there are implement in other countries
How Russia Targets U.S. Military
Politico: How Russia targets the U.S. Military – An important read for all US military personnel, both active and retired and their families. This article unmasks several websites created by Russian operatives to target US military.
Russians Spying on U.S. Military Personnel Are Posing As Attractive Women on Facebook – Oldest trick in the book is being applied to Facebook.
McClatchy Report: Russian propaganda engaged U.S. vets, troops on Twitter and Facebook, study finds – How Russian operatives work to manipulate US military personnel and veterans via social media.
How Russia Is Using LinkedIn as a Tool of War Against Its U.S. Enemies – How Russian trolls got people permanently banned from LinkedIn by using the violations reporting tools. I remember watching this happen. This seems to have quieted down. Other tactics – fake profiles for U.S. Military leadership, drip of propaganda messaging etc. continue.
Countering Russian Active Measures Against The United States
United States Subcommittee on Armed Services Hearing: Cyber-enabled Information Operations – In which the recommendation is made to think outside the box regarding engaging American IT and Cyber security talent. As they are already observing and countering enemy tactics in the wilds of the internet they do not need security clearance or be housed at the Pentagon in order to contribute to our national security.
The New York Times: U.S. Begins First Cyberoperation Against Russia Aimed at Protecting Elections —The US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) is engaging in a campaign to deter further disinformation operations by Russian operatives.
Defense One: CyberCom Is Targeting Russia’s Election Meddlers — and Changing How Governments Use Cyber — Analysis of USCYBERCOM’s campaign against Russian social media operatives and discussion of anonymity vs claiming responsibility in information warfare campaigns.
Putin’s Propaganda Machine
What is a social media bot?– An introduction to social media bots including how they originated, what they look like behind the scenes, how to identify them and how they are now being used by Russia.
Introduction to Russian social media trolls– An introduction to Russian social media trolls. Including video of an interview with Russian paid to pretend to be aunties from Nebraska explaining how and why they do it.
New York Times: The Agency – An introduction to the Internet Research Agency, (IRA) the office where Russian trolls clock in and sit in the cubicles working to meet their quotas.
Mother Jones: How to Spot a Russian Bot – Five good basics to get started spotting Russian Twitter bots.
Introduction to TEN_GOP Russian Troll Twitter Account – The Russian Twitter troll account that amassed over 100K followers and fooled reporters into quoting it in articles and American political leaders in to retweeting it.
DFR Lab Report: How A Russian Troll Fooled America -The story of Russian troll Twitter account posing as the Tennessee GOP influenced American voters and political leaders.
Daily Beast: Jenna Abrams, Russia’s Clown Troll Princess, Duped the Mainstream Media and the World – The story of the Jenna Abrams Russian Troll account which was regularly quoted by US media.
NBC Database: 200,000 Russian Tweets Deleted from Twitter – One of the frustrations in analyzing the Russian 2016 warfare tactics on social media is the social media sites are deleting the content. If they would freeze and archive the materials we could do better forensics. In this link NBC has preserved 200,000 tweets.
Houston Chronicle: A Houston Protest Organized by Russian Trolls – The story of a protest in Houston in which both sides were manipulated by Russian trolls through Facebook to attend a protest and counter protest.
On the Technology of Artificial Intelligence and Fake Video
The Defense Department has produced the first tools for catching deepfakes – The DOD is taking falsified videos seriously and looking for ways to identify and counter them. This article lists some tells of falsified videos. I’m a little concerned about the term “deep fakes”. It can easily be spun by manipulators. While the term is longer and not as catchy, “falsified videos”keeps the focus on what they are.
Buzzfeed: The Terrifying Future of Fake News – An introduction to the emerging use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to hijack the our communication platforms though gaming algorithms, creation of fake content and blocking human engagement by jamming systems.
Atlantic Council: The MADCOM Future – An important read and a more in-depth study of the potential (and likely) impact of Artificial Intelligence on society.
Background On Cold War 2.0
Mueller’s February 16, 2018 Indictment of 13 Russians – Despite being a formal indictment this is very accessible reading for the legal layperson. The surprise to those of us that have tracked this activity was that the Russians were here in America for part of this operation. The activities outlined in this document are the ones Mueller was able to document enough to warrant an indictment and are by no means the full scope of the operations. They do illustrate the level of influence these operations had on American citizens.
DFRLab: Matching Mueller’s Indictment – Much of the information in Mueller’s indictment was already available through open source materials. In this piece DFRLab matches those materials with the related passages of the indictment.
The Atlantic: What Facebook Did to American Democracy – This article is an excellent look at how Facebook evolved from being a site where people shared pictured of their pets and dinner to one of the, if not the main information and news distribution mechanisms. This article includes many links for even more in-depth understanding of this phenomenon.
Frontline’s Two Part Series: Putin’s Revenge Part 1 and Part 2 – The story of how Putin transitioned from KGB agent to president of Russia and came to see the United States as an enemy — and how U.S. intelligence came to believe he targeted the 2016 presidential election.
Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security – Ben Cardin’s overview of Putin’s strategic assault on democracy is surprisingly readable for a Congressional report. It is a comprehensive, yet understandable overview of the situation.