Disinformation 101

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As protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong calling for democratic rights, agents of influence were operating behind the scenes to affect the way the protests are perceived by different audiences. In Hong Kong, the images reflect a demonstration movement, but in China, the images are tailored to a narrative described by The New York Times as a “small, violent gang of protesters, unsupported by residents and provoked by foreign agents…running rampant, calling for Hong Kong’s independence and tearing China apart.” The Chinese efforts are textbook disinformation tactics.

Ahead of the 2020 election, the U.S. Government sees disinformation as a national security threats.  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence says it is ‘preparing to confront a novel set of challenges related to the upcoming 2020 presidential elections amid proliferating disinformation threats.” 

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are investing in efforts to identify disinformation but use of the tactic is a relatively easy one for the adversary and the best defense is for the target (you) to be able to identify a disinformation effort when you see it.

The Cipher Brief is running a special series on disinformation over the next several months.  We’ll introduce you to experts in the field who will share ways to identify disinformation efforts, help you critically think your way through what you see and share tips on what to do when you do see it. 

Experts say that getting the terminology right is the first step so that people who are often targeted by these campaigns can have a common understanding of the terms used to identify different behaviors.

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