Hamilton68: A new tool for monitoring Russian deza operations online

The Alliance for Securing Democracy just announced an interesting tool:

The Hamilton 68 dashboard, launching today as part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, provides a near real-time look at Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online. The top of the page shows tweets from official Russian propaganda outlets in English, and a short post discussing the themes of the day. This is Russia’s overt messaging.

But these disinformation networks also include bots and trolls that synchronize to promote Russian messaging themes, including attack campaigns and the spreading of disinformation. Some of these accounts are directly controlled by Russia, others are users who on their own initiative reliably repeat and amplify Russian themes. Our analysis is based on linked 600 Twitter accounts to Russian influence activities online, and the lower section of the dashboard features charts that display topics, hashtags, and links currently promoted by this network.

4chan, 8chan stop using bots to suppress anti-Trump threads

Up until recently, any anti-Trump threads started on 4chan or 8chan would be suppressed by accounts, presumably automated, that would flood the thread with noise, often images of Asian women.

Examples:

https://thebarchive.com/b/thread/740441713

https://thebarchive.com/b/thread/739730233

https://thebarchive.com/b/thread/738899340

Here, the posters are familiar with the phenomenon and are posting stereotyped anti-Trump comments on purpose, hoping to see pictures of Asian women:

https://thebarchive.com/b/thread/739285147

But here is a current thread, started today, Monday, July 31, 2017, with unrestrained anti-Trump sentiment:

https://thebarchive.com/b/thread/740667232

This may represent an incident of bots and other automated systems used as a meme warfare tactic to control the political narrative in a specific venue. The cessation of this tactic here may be related to some shift in political climate. Indeed, it comes at the same time the Russian government announced their disappointment in the Trump administration over new sanctions.

This switch in automated suppression affords an opportunity to study the effect of such suppression on the social/political dynamics in the affected forum. CoPsyCon will be observing and studying this as it unfolds.

 

 

 

CoPsyCon strategy overview

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:
  1. Radicalizing and recruiting individuals for specific terrorist actions.
  2. 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.

What CoPsyCon does and does not do

Currently, US democracy is under attack by malicious actors using technological tools to promote disinformation for the purpose of coordinating and controlling a significant subset of the population as a weaponized demographic. CoPsyCon will conduct research and development to build a technical and psychological knowledgebase of expertise on this attack vector, and develop tools to disrupt the effectiveness of this attack against democracy by disrupting the malicious actor’s ability to coordinate and control their victims.

What CoPsyCon does:
Develop expertise on the technical and psychological process of controlling and coordinating a weaonized demographic, and disrupt this at the process level, regardless of the specific malicious actor’s goals
Research the origin, characteristics, and propagation vectors of the memes used in this type of attack
Develop a combined technological and psychological model of the attack
Develop automated monitoring tools to enable a realtime dashboard monitor for similar attacks
Develop memetics/counter-psyops protocols for building counter-deza memes that will be effective at diluting and disrupting the monolithic deza meme signals used in the attacks
Develop technological tools to inject counter-deza memes ahead of a deza meme attack to dilute and disrupt the ability of the attack to control a weaponized demographic.
Apply this shield in an unbiased and neutral manner.
Equally counter foreign and domestic origins of attacks
Equally counter threats that originate from nation-states, non-state entities, powerful individuals, or loose ad-hoc collections of aligned interests
Operate with as much transparency as possible
Support rule of law, democracy, and all of the institutions that define and protect America

 

What CoPsyCon does not do:
Diverge from its focused mission
Advocate for political positions, issues or parties
Focus on prosecution of specific malicious actors
Use or advocate defenses based on banning, blocking, censoring, etc. of any communication channel, entity, idea, etc.
Evaluate or judge beliefs or values on any basis other than how those beliefs and values contribute to susceptibility to the threat of coordinated deza-meme attacks
Manipulate population beliefs and values in any way other than as an unavoidable side effect of our core mission of disruption of coordinated deza-meme attacks
Believe that this type of attack is uniquely used by Russia, or any other specific entity
Discriminate against groups or individuals on the basis of any criterion other than those that are logically necessary for our mission

 

Work Outline: first draft

This is a draft of the technical work plan for CoPsyCon.
Phase I. Observation and measurement of deza (disinformation) psyops
a) Retrospective timeline scans: Compile Twitter archive and Google Trends data. Identify and analyze info-deza event pairs, i.e. critical information events or “breaking news”, followed by triggered deza campaign. Describe technical patterns and processes of disinformation promulgation. Describe psychological patterns of deza memes. Identify deza origins, if possible.
b) Real-time feed scans: Set up server to monitor live feeds. Identify and analyze info-deza event pairs in near-real time.
Phase II. Counter-deza meme development (depends on the above)
a) Soft broadcast test: Compose counter-deza memes and measure propagation in the wild
b) Hard broadcast test: Hire botnets and measure counter-deza meme propagation in the wild with amplification.
c) Field test: Wait for critical information events and measure propagation of counter-deza memes in live “combat zone”
Phase III. Active counter-psyops deployment
a) Develop metrics for effectiveness of defenses.
b) Iterative development cycle of refining deza identification and counter-deza meme development.
c) Report results and coordinate with authorities.