The Coming Information War

The Mueller investigation was primarily into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Much of the discussion in the report about that interference is redacted.

We can expect the same in the runup to the 2020 election. That means starting now.

What Russia is doing cannot entirely be dealt with by those in political power (those who want to, anyway) or those in network power (same). And it’s not just Russia, it’s China, North Korea, Iran, and some 400-pound dude in his mother’s basement. We all have to be responsible consumers and distributors of information on the internet.

This is going to be one of my themes. Today I found a particularly good Twitter thread, which I’ll put into a more narrative form. The thread has gifs that I won’t drag in, so if you like that sort of thing, check out the link.

1/ Finished Reading the . I want to highlight 3 things in the report and how they relate to the IRA (Senate data set) investigation that I was part of last year:

2/ #1 In the “Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency” report, it was important to me to focus on the *infiltration of movements & activation of Americans* who were identified and targeted. The Mueller report does that as well, noting repeated outreach via Messenger.

3/ From both far-left/far-right press there’s been an ongoing “haha it was just some stupid memes” line.

No.

The IRA went far beyond what a “social media agency” does. It leveraged techniques used by intelligence pros to target Americans, develop trust, get ppl to take action.

4/ When we think about how disinformation will spread in 2020, this kind of engagement with real, aligned Americans will likely be a big part of it. It’s hard to identify this kind of activity.

7/ There were dozens of formal FB Events but they also occasionally put random event promos into Insta posts. There were tons of community events promoted on Black-community targeted FB pages. Instigating in-the-street action is another thing I would expect more of for 2020;

8/The Mueller report did a great job describing how the IRA prioritized getting people out into the street, carefully monitored results, had ppl take photos, etc. That’s bc it’s an important part of their operation. News coverage + incendiary images lead to emotional engagement.

9/ Point #3: Influencer manipulation. This is another tactic we wrote ab in the Tactics & Tropes report. Many Trump campaign accounts retweeted IRA sockpuppets. Not mentioned in the Mueller report: the celebrity accounts, journalists, etc that also retweeted this stuff.

14/There are still ppl who don’t believe Russia did anything, or can’t separate “interference” from “collusion”; maybe the will help them accept that the GRU hacks & IRA influence op really happened.

They did.

And whatever party you are, that should make you mad

15/ Thanks for reading this thread that was actually very short compared to other threads. 420.






43 replies
  1. 1
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    Great twitter thread. Thank you, Renee. And 420 sounds good too…

  2. 2
    Ruckus says:

    I’m not mad. I’m fucking pissed off.
    Because this is the only way someone like DT could win an election. And yes there are others in the political arena who are like him in many ways. They may not have all his “peccadilloes” but they have more than enough.
    This is a big country, with a lot of world influence, due to history, due to money, due to who was left basically left unscarred land/structure wise from WWII. And yes that is still important, but that importance is falling every day and the pace of that change is accelerating. The world has moved on and in many ways we haven’t. Our success (and luck of geography) has become part of our failure. England is in a similar dilemma with brexit. We both want to be what sort of was, but can’t. And there are always others who want what they don’t have and have no way of getting. Vlad is one of these. For most of it’s life Russia, or what ever it has called itself over time, has had issues that keeps it from being what a country it’s size should be able to be. It’s a world power because of WWII and it’s size. It wouldn’t be more than a notation on a map if it had to rely on it’s world position in the financial/resource realm, it has power because of WWII. It’s leader is wealthy because he does what leaders in Russia have done for ever, everything for themselves, fuck everyone else. He’s just using modern tools now.

  3. 3

    @Ruckus:

    It’s a world power because of WWII and it’s size.

    Also nukes.

  4. 4
    rikyrah says:

    Thanks for the link to the twitter thread.

  5. 5
    rk says:

    Here’s a thought: What if it were not Russia, but a Muslim country with a turbaned leader who did what Putin did? All the Muslim community would be held responsible. Every Muslim, even those not from that country would be presumed as traitors and guilty.
    Yet I never hear that Russians in this country are being harassed, and there’s no blame ever put on them for actions of their country of origin. I’m not advocating for harassing Russians of course, but if it was not a white country we would not be having so much difficulty with Russian interference. No one questions all the white men colluding with a foreign power to harm the US. They’re presumed to be criminals, but not traitors.

  6. 6
    Sab says:

    @rikyrah: You already did a link to the Louisiana arsoned churches gofund me. I just got my paycheck. What date was your link?

  7. 7
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @rk: The Iranians regularly play the Right – see Iran Contra and the lead up to the Iraq War.

  8. 8
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Yes, sort of.
    Their arsenal seems to be in rather crappy condition*, the country has been robbed by Vlad and a few friends, I’m not sure they’d be anything but an asterisk in history if it weren’t for their ability to do intellectual warfare, and maybe better than anyone else. Because other than being a pain in the ass with that, what else have they got going for them that isn’t underhanded and mob like? India and Pakistan have nukes, how much world powers does that actually give them?
    Also just for the record, my post at #2 was simplifying just a little bit. Total world history would be a slightly longer comment.
    *It appears that their one aircraft carrier is nothing more than a somewhat floating, rust creating machine and never will be anything more. How up to date is their delivery system and how up to date are the weapons they might deliver? My impression is a lot of their arsenal is failing – has failed, and there is little to no money being spent to bring it back to life.

  9. 9
    Sab says:

    My granddaughters is reading Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” in high school. How cool is that?

    Also, I am a not-proud Luddite. How do I underline book titles? I put them in quotes, but I do know they are not short stories.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    American conservatives are pre-programmed for this by Evangelicalism, they are raised only to accept specif trusted thought leaders and to reject any other information source including their own misgivings. Moral of the story – don’t accept shut up as answer

  12. 12

    @Ruckus: I can’t speak in detail to the general condition of the Russian nuclear arsenal. But they have 1500 deployed nuclear weapons, most aimed at the United States. If only a tenth of them work, that’s still pretty bad. India and Pakistan are primarily dangers to each other, secondarily to China.

    I agree that Russia’s economic condition is terrible. Most of their exports are raw materials – petroleum, diamonds, lumber. They have never really developed a manufacturing economy, and Putin sees that as unimportant for his goals. He’s willing to go with being a spoiler rather than assertively offering a positive model for other countries.

  13. 13
    Feathers says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Another reason for getting the US economy as far off of petroleum reliance as we can. I never understood why we should frack all the shale, rather than leaving it in the ground for some future emergency and going for green energy ASAP while burning up the rest of the world’s oil reserves in the meantime.

  14. 14
    trollhattan says:

    @Sab:
    Does the u tag work here?

    ETA nope.

  15. 15
    Bill Arnold says:

    This is going to be one of my themes.

    Thank you Cheryl. Training [need a better verb] Americans (and the rest of the world) to be more resistant to all scales of this sort of manipulation will be key.
    The techniques are universal, and increasingly automatable, enabling affordable customized targeting at small and individual scales.
    Do you have a bibliography for this yet?
    (I’ll organize my own link collection, fwiw.)

  16. 16
    ruemara says:

    What pisses me off the most is the sheer quantity of people I know who are quite smart, but have no objectivity towards their faves: TYT, Chapo, WikiLeaks, Assange, Sanders, Intercept, Glenn. Nothing bursts that bubble. The democratic party being loaded with spineless cowards who won’t hold DJT accountable within minutes of the Barr conference, can come out of their mouths just as easily as the Democratic party is complicit in the system and don’t care, plus Russia is being blamed for democrats not being inspirational heroes of socialism. They’re insane.

  17. 17

    @Sab: @trollhattan: Just use italics. Virtually any style guide published in at least the last twenty years has treated them as interchangeable, if not said that italics are outright preferred. (I think the only reason underline was once more common was because typewriters didn’t do italics.) The text editor should have a button for the HTML <em></em> (emphasis/italic) tag.

  18. 18
    rikyrah says:

    @Sab:

    it wasn’t the most updated. When I last checked, they were past the $1 million mark, but, hadn’t achieved their goal. I hope that they have.

  19. 19
    Zelma says:

    I really wish there was more discussion about the Russian role in the election but the MSM seems pretty incapable of holding two ideas in their collective heads at the same time. Rachel did point it out first on her show, but even she didn’t follow up as much as she should have. Seems to me that this is key to the whole Mueller Report. It’s what he started with.

  20. 20
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Vlad sees Vlad. OK he probably sees Vlad’s wallet before he sees Vlad. He’s the evil Scrooge McDuck.
    Sure that 10% would be bad. But Vlad isn’t stupid, or at least not near as stupid as he is evil. He knows that 10% would be far worse for him. DT wouldn’t know that if you spent every last one of his days/hours trying to teach him that. Vlad knows that all the money in the world is worth squat when you are dead or dying from radiation poisoning. And he’s seen radiation poisoning up close in his own country. Vlad is trying to get us to destroy ourselves. A far cheaper war, and one he might be able to win. So far how does it seem to be going for him?

  21. 21
    joel hanes says:

    @Sab:

    How do I underline book titles ?

    Old-skool pure text Usenet usage for Luddites :

    _Bury_My_Heart_At_Wounded_Knee_, by Dee Brown

  22. 22

    @Bill Arnold: No bibliography. In a sense, the best protection is just to be aware of what you’re reading and sharing. Where does it come from? Who is this person who is pushing their ideas? What does that mean for me, for people who agree/ disagree with me? Follow the money.

    There are some specifics for detecting bots, but the bot-makers are getting better at their game. On Twitter, some obvious things are a generic avatar, few followers, recently joined. But that’s not the whole story. I block readily. Some accounts act like bots, although the other indicators are not necessarily of a bot. People act that way too. All the general rules for avoiding trolls apply.

    But being careful and critical of what you read and share is the most of it.

  23. 23
    Zelma says:

    @oatler.:
    Sooner or later it’s going to go beyond threats and ineffectual actions. Someone will get hurt or dead. The crazies have been unleashed.

  24. 24

    @(((CassandraLeo))): Come to think of it, there’s another good reason to avoid underline online, which is that on many websites, it is part of the style definition that denotes a hyperlink. This was in fact once default across the Web, though it has gone out of fashion in recent years; Balloon Juice, for instance, doesn’t underline its hyperlinks. But many people may still have the mental association, so it’s perhaps better to avoid creating confusion.

  25. 25

    @Ruckus:

    Sure that 10% would be bad. But Vlad isn’t stupid, or at least not near as stupid as he is evil. He knows that 10% would be far worse for him.

    This is really important and a theme I will be pursuing (in a slightly different key) with my specialist colleagues. There will be posts.

  26. 26
    Ruckus says:

    @Zelma:
    Part of the problem is the shear size of the problem.
    The enormity of it, of an entire country paying to sway the elections of another country. It’s almost as if they’ve never heard of it before. Wait, did I just type that as though it’s never happened before? Shame on me. History is full of such stories and most of them in the last 75 yrs have been about us. Sucks to have your own misdeeds aimed at you isn’t it?

    The size of the problem is an issue, but it’s far, far easier to do today than it was 25 yrs ago. The real issue is being on the receiving end for once.

  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Great. That should be well worth reading.

  28. 28
    Dan B says:

    Good post! More like it will probably be essential. I had my eyes opened to the power of influencers decades ago as a “homosexual” when it was illegal, mental illness, caused pedophilia, predatory to / recruiting children, etc. This was repeated by the nicest, most sincere people. Questioning their facts was tantamount to confessing to horrible unmentionable sins.

    We are like fish who cannot see the water we swim in. I see the smears being levied against some of the Dem candidates and have a sense what will be leveled against others as they gain prominence. Will Kamala be labeled a corporate lover? Will Warren assume tye “shrill” mantle or the leftist radical? How about both? Will the “white elitest” frame pass to Biden or the “male usurper” to Castro or Booker? These distract from the GOP and Trump.

    Well, as Pollyanna says, Gosh, we sure do live in interesting times!

  29. 29
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    But being careful and critical of what you read and share is the most of it.

    What’s that old saw, 90% of everything is bullshit, and the rest is being processed into that as we breathe.
    Of course that isn’t 100% true but the concept that everything can be bullshit has never been truer or easier to produce. And that people will buy anything, even truck loads of bullshit, if they like the smell.

  30. 30
    H.E.Wolf says:

    @Zelma:

    Sooner or later it’s going to go beyond threats and ineffectual actions. Someone will get hurt or dead.

    Indeed; and I think it’s fair to say that it has already happened numerous times. To take a single example: the 9 people murdered in the 2012 incident when US Rep Gabby Giffords was nearly killed, after Sarah Palin posted an image online which featured crosshairs in relation to Giffords.

    It’s not a new phenomenon. The anti-abortion movement has been using this playbook for decades, and many doctors and staffers have been assassinated over the past few decades as a result.

    Adam Silverman calls it stochastic terrorism. A more familiar phrase is “incitement to violence”.

    It’s also intersectional. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that almost every mass murderer begins his spree of violence by killing a woman, usually a woman in his circle of family or acquaintances.

    Blech.

    I’m going to go look at cute cat photos for a while. This stuff is upsetting.

  31. 31
    Dan B says:

    @rikyrah: Great to hear that the black churches are getting good money. I lived in Jim Crow Arkansas and had the good fortune of a father who quit his jib to get us kids out. My brother was falling under the spell of all the “good old kids”. I refuse to believe that culture has changed significantly. It hadn’t budged much from 1865 to 1960 when we lived there. Those churches are a lifeline.

  32. 32
    waysel says:

    What does IRA stand for?

  33. 33
    Jay says:

    @Ruckus:

    Keep in mind Chris Wylie’s testimony.

    Aggregate IQ and Cambridge Analetica took software and algorithms designed to “influence” peoples social media feeds, to deradicalize them,

    And flipped it, so that instead, it radicalized people through their social media feeds.

    And they have been doing this since 2013.

  34. 34

    @waysel: In this context, Internet Research Agency, which is a Russian troll farm. (Spelled out in tweet #2, but easy to miss)

  35. 35
  36. 36
    The Moar You Know says:

    What does IRA stand for?

    @waysel: Internet Research Agency, one of many “troll farms” of the Russian Federation.

  37. 37
    Dan B says:

    @H.E.Wolf: It’s especially disturbing that Randall Terry, the Operation Rescue crazy who very plausibly got multiple abortion providers killed, is going after an unnameable presidential candidate. The mitivations share a root, questioning the hegemony of the dominant male.

  38. 38
    Nicole says:

    @rikyrah: They are just past the $2 million mark (I contributed yesterday, so I saw the most recent total). Over 38,000 people have donated.

    Link for those who still would like to donate:

    https://www.gofundme.com/church-fires-st-landry-parishmacedonia-ministry

  39. 39
    James E Powell says:

    There are still ppl who don’t believe Russia did anything, or can’t separate “interference” from “collusion”; maybe the #MuellerReport will help them accept that the GRU hacks & IRA influence op really happened.

    They did.

    And whatever party you are, that should make you mad

    I don’t know Renee DiResta and don’t mean to be disrespectful, but this reflects a complete misunderstanding of the RW worldview.

    They readily deny evolution and the age of the earth, denying Russian interference is not at all a challenge. What’s more, Russian interference that put them in power, gave them two supreme court justices, and enraged the libtards is a positive. It makes them happy. They don’t give a shit whether it damages the United States. They believe that the worst thing that could ever happen to the United States is the election of a Democrat.

    Same thing for Greenwald and his ilk. Same thing for the Bernie Bros. They will never admit they were wrong.

  40. 40
    Sab says:

    @rikyrah: Just checked. 1.85 million goal.Reached 2.08 milliion. So goal surpassed. Yay.

  41. 41
    Sab says:

    @Sab: Still going to donate. Gofundmes are the minimum. Can always use more.

  42. 42
    Peale says:

    Yep. One of the things I have been wondering for a bit is how much of the BLM protests in various places were flamed by Russia. Russia could then use that information to continually pepper attendees with messages holding Hillary and the Democrats responsible for everything that went wrong in the 1990s. Spreading pictures of those protests around seems to be a nice touch since it can feed into the perception that “our cities are on fire!” when they most certainly aren’t on fire. Yep. They were so much on Fire that the big social trend in 2016 other than the rise of fascism was hanging out at the library at night trying to catch pokemon.

  43. 43
    Chris says:

    @rk:

    Here’s a thought: What if it were not Russia, but a Muslim country with a turbaned leader who did what Putin did? All the Muslim community would be held responsible. Every Muslim, even those not from that country would be presumed as traitors and guilty.
    Yet I never hear that Russians in this country are being harassed, and there’s no blame ever put on them for actions of their country of origin.

    The worst part of this is the assholes that you see commenting on “Russophobia” and “McCarthyism” and all that bullshit when it comes to the Mueller investigation or the fact that Russia tampered in the election. Even though it’s patently obvious that none of that shit is happening anywhere.

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