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RECOMMENDED READING: “Leaks, Lies, and Altered Tape, Russia’s Maturing Information Manipulation Playbook”

October 22nd, 2020 13:10

The Alliance for Secur­ing Democ­ra­cy has pub­lished a report titled “Leaks, Lies, and Altered Tape, Russia’s Matur­ing Infor­ma­tion Manip­u­la­tion Play­book” that pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive look at the var­i­ous cat­e­gories of Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts. The report begins:

In 2016 the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and its prox­ies inter­fered in the U. S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in a “sweep­ing andsys­tem­at­ic” fash­ion. 1Thanks to mul­ti­ple bipar­ti­san inves­ti­ga­tions and the work of researchers and jour­nal­ists, rich detail about that operation—and the tools Russia’s dis­in­for­ma­tion agents used to exe­cute it—are avail­able­to the pub­lic. In 2020 Amer­i­cans are again prepar­ing to elect a pres­i­dent. As the U. S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty assessed, and FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray con­firmed in recent tes­ti­mo­ny before Con­gress, Rus­sia is con­ductin­ga “very active” inter­fer­ence cam­paign. 2Since 2016, Russia’s inter­fer­ence activ­i­ty in the Unit­ed States, and else­where around the world, has not abat­ed. That’s because elec­tions are a flash­point for Russ­ian infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions, but not the start or end­point of this­ac­tiv­i­ty, which tar­gets a broad range of polar­iz­ing or con­tentious polit­i­cal events. Over the past four years, thetac­tics, tech­niques, and pro­ce­dures (TTPs) the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and its prox­ies use to manip­u­late infor­ma­tion and car­ry out decep­tive cam­paigns have matured. These include:

• Co-opt­ing authen­tic domes­tic voic­es and insti­tu­tions, often by co-locat­ing trolls with­in a tar­get pop­u­la­tion, rent­ing social media accounts of local actors, entrap­ping local lead­ers in “inter­views” with pur­port­ed jour­nal­ists, recruit­ing real activists to foment protests, or mim­ic­k­ing or appro­pri­at­ing the names of local groups;
• Exploit­ing the antic­i­pa­tion of manip­u­la­tion to claim that manip­u­la­tion has occurred, often through false flag oper­a­tions, or the ampli­fi­ca­tion of home­grown con­spir­a­cy theories;
• Prac­tic­ing tai­lored influ­ence, by work­ing through micro-influ­encers and in closed groups;
• Exploit­ing the full infor­ma­tion ecosys­tem to laun­der a nar­ra­tive, by seed­ing it with authen­tic domes­tic actors, deploy­ing qua­si-trans­par­ent Russ­ian-sup­port­ed media prop­er­ties, and exploit­ing data voids.

Broad­ly speak­ing, we are wit­ness­ing a marked shift toward hard­er to detect, more tar­get­ed infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions that cov­er greater swaths of the infor­ma­tion ecosys­tem, like­ly car­ried out by Russ­ian mil­i­tary intelligence.That is a very dif­fer­ent chal­lenge than the one pol­i­cy­mak­ers faced in 2016, when the threat was not yet ful­ly com­pre­hend­ed, and in 2018, when the threat appeared to be large­ly dri­ven by Inter­net Research Agency (IRA) trolls.

Read the full report here.

The GIOR has been report­ing exten­sive­ly on Russ­ian influ­ence operations.