2017-02-03

Information warfare and inversion of influence

Mihaela Nicola*

Words as bullets

Old or new?

  • Military capabilities – upgraded, updated, better trained, better equipped
  • Intelligence operations – instruments of non-linear warfare spreading disinformation, panic and unrest
  • Information warfare – spreading messages, undermine and contest message of others, introducing confusion, doubts, uncertainty
  • Classic media
  • Internet (websites, blogs, social platforms, etc.)
  • Public diplomacy
  • NGOs
  • Other influencers

More sophisticated!

The use of information by psychological operations, disinformation, subversion, bluff, deceptive storytelling or even intelligence operations designed to win “hearts and minds” are age-old tactics, described by Sun Tzu but the media spin opportunities and creative abilities, the technology, the dynamic of cyberspace, the fake news phenomenon, the speed and magnitude of such campaigns today have turned the information war into a very sophisticated battle. No bullets needed, just words and history could go backwards!

Romanian Perspective

Similar to NATO’s

  • Large range of hostile actions
  • Military is just one of its tools
  • Energy and resources dependency
  • Deep social segmentation
  • Weaponization of information*
  • And more …

*Cannot strictly define it, but we all recognize it when we see it

Weaponiozation of information
Substantial and coherent effort to produce and consistently cultivate

  • 360 degree (counter-intuitive) narrative
  • Stereotypes, conspiracy theories
  • Hate speech
  • Disinformation
  • Barriers between different social groups, communities, nations
  • Pollution in the information space
  • Confusion, instability, demoralization
  • Fake news
  • Destroy and ridicule the idea of truth
  • Move the conversation

Results

  • Headlines more important than reality
  • Perception more important than real facts
  • Inversion of influence!
  • Public trust at all time low in:
    • Authorities and institutions
    • Political parties and decisions
    • Media and personalities
    • The future …
  • Lack of trust is the most dangerous emotional ingredient!

Key messages of information war*

Russia

  • Is not perfect, but is less aggressive than the west
  • Is only responding to western aggression
  • NATO and EU
  • Are instigators of aggression
  • Are about to collapse

USA

  • Is invasive, conflicting  and wants to dominate the world
  • Is in decline and its global hegemony is collapsing
  • The future: uncertain

   *monitoring by Institute of Security Studies in Prague

Characteristics of disinformation campaign

  • Heavily use conspiracy theories and combine facts and half-trues
  • Disseminate and use same messaging and arguments
  • Have negative undertones, usually depicting moral, economic, political and social degradation – predicting a bleak future of collapse
  • Involve public personalities and NGO’s to offer visibility and credibility
  • Most importantly:
  • Use emotionally charged words, stories, pictures and videos

Why worry?

  • Because recent events have proven better than ever – public goes unpredictable path when expressing their emotional needs and fears
  • The classic pyramid of influence has been flipped upside down
  • Information war is really manipulation of emotions, feelings, expectations, frustrations
  • Words and pictures and videos are very effective in building lasting impressions, in turning certainty into disbelieve
    • Question more!  The motto of disbelieve
    • Broader population has more influence than those with authority
  • Speed of internet > speed of military (political) decisions

How do we win such a war?

  • Acknowledge
    • First have to realize and accept we are in a “war situation”
  • Asses
    • Might be a regional rather than global war, however states should share analyses, strategies and tactical plans
  • Act
    • One narrative, synergetic efforts
    • Address emotional needs and expectation of people
    • Restore TRUST

Tactical

  • Mapping the impact on public opinion
  • Evaluation on real emotional triggers for public
  • Deconstruction and exposure of “Information war” and its tools
  • Avoidance of past cliche and redesigning worldwide/regional narrative
  • Learning “trolling” (move the conversation) and using it in a smart, constructive fashion
  • Education for public awareness
  • Give “Information Security” the status of an academic science (by encouraging teaching such courses in universities as well as funding think tanks and institutes in the region to approach the battlefield of “information war”)

* The material was presented at the Hudson Institute debate – NSC, „Why the Black Sea Matters. A debate about security challenges in the wider Black Sea region”, London,  January 18th, 2017.