1. Research questions
How do other countries use disinformation on social media to advance their interests? What was the U.S. response to these movements and how did it evolve?
What does the joint force—especially the U.S. Air Force—need to prepare to respond?
How do state adversaries use disinformation on social media to advance their interests? What does the joint force—especially the United States Air Force (USAF)—need to prepare to respond? Using a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, as well as more than 150 original interviews from the U.S. government, joint forces, industry, civil society, and subject matter experts from nine countries around the world, researchers studied social interactions in country A, Russia, and North Korea. The use of disinformation in the media and the responses the United States and its allies and partners are taking. The authors found that disinformation campaigns on social media can be more subtle than often depicted. Still, much of the response to disinformation has been ad hoc and discordant. Disinformation campaigns on social media are likely to increase over the next decade, but it is unclear who has a competitive advantage in this race; at the same time, disinformation techniques and countermeasures are constantly evolving. This multi-volume series outlines recommendations for better preparation for this new era of communications warfare.
2. Main findings
Disinformation campaigns on social media may be more subtle than often depicted
Russia and Iran have used this tactic abroad more than Country A and North Korea.
Disinformation campaigns on state-led social media are a relatively new phenomenon.
These movements can intimidate, divide and denigrate, but there is little evidence that they can change steadfast beliefs.
Smaller, locally popular social media platforms may face a higher risk of disinformation than larger mainstream social media platforms.
The disinformation campaign on social media is clearly operationally successful, but its strategic impact is uncertain.
Disinformation campaigns on social media are likely to increase over the next decade.
Much of the response to disinformation remains ad hoc and incoherent
The U.S. government’s lead agency to combat disinformation, the State Department’s Center for Global Engagement, lacks the necessary political and institutional clout to guide a coordinated effort.
Joint efforts to man, train, and equip forces to combat disinformation remain ad hoc and service-dependent.
Allies and partners have also tried other countermeasures, most of them with unclear results.
The industry — especially after the 2016 election meddling — has worked aggressively to combat disinformation, but how companies respond depends on their business models.
Civil society groups play an important but often overlooked role.
While disinformation campaigns on social media are likely to increase over the next decade, it is unclear who has a competitive advantage in this race as disinformation technologies and countermeasures evolve simultaneously
The U.S. Air Force, especially Air Force Special Operations Command, should expand its information operations capabilities and responsibilities.
The joint force should understand the information environment and look beyond U.S. platforms. It should also train on disinformation, focus on key demographics, minimize widespread bans on smartphone and social media use, increase transparency, enforce information discipline, and conduct DoD-wide scrutiny of information operations forces.
The U.S. government should publish an anti-disinformation strategy that leverages civil society groups and industry without outsourcing the fight against disinformation, avoids bans on social networks, balances anti-disinformation efforts with a commitment to free speech, and Carefully weigh risks while focusing on priorities. Aggressive influence efforts on real information.