Attention is currently focused on threat vectors of disinformation and psychological manipulation in social and traditional media as components of asymmetric hybrid warfare, but largely limited to threat models of:
- Radicalizing and recruiting individuals for specific terrorist actions.
- Undermining public trust and effectiveness of mainstream institutions, disrupting the defender’s ability to stop the attacker’s goals.
An insidious and aggressive extension of (2) is now proving to be very effective in moving beyond chaos and disruption and enabling attackers to actively re-write the political narrative to serve their goals. In this scenario, disinformation is used to rally and unite a minority faction, and then botnets, search-engine optimization (SEO) and other media trend manipulation tactics are used to precisely choreograph the content and timing of that faction’s political expressions. This creates a controllable “weaponized demographic” that can be used as a lever to force the Overton window to shift in ways that would not occur organically, which the attacker hopes will lead to policy changes favorable to their goals, despite a lack of majority support.
This vector is available to attackers of any political affiliation, and would be destructive regardless of the specific policy goals in question. Currently, the largest active attacks are represented by the Brexit campaign and the Trump presidency. Both were well outside the Overton window a few years ago, but the window was rapidly shifted by this type of attack, and both became reality.
CoPsyCon.org is developing models and tools to identify in real time and selectively disrupt signals based not on their content, but on their function of uniting and controlling a weaponized demographic, thereby mitigating the threat to democracy while avoiding the risks of censorship and partisanship.