tv RAND Discussion on Russia Social Media Influence CSPAN March 16, 2019 12:47am-1:21am EDT
lincoln as president-elect. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> researchers talked with congressional staff about efforts to counter russian soto mysia -- social media influence and a proposal for a new government organization that would focus on information sharing. this is about 30 minutes. [applause] >> thank you all very much for coming. thank you for taking the time today to come to this briefing. i will spend 15 or so minutes talking about research and hopefully we should have plenty of time for questions and answers and discussion afterward. russian media and affluence. i'm sure you have all seen headlines in the united states over the past four years. these are for facebook ads that
facebook ads promoted. answers, which ones do you think -- which ones were from russia? it was a trick question. we saw the strategy of both sides trying to create division between society. i'm glad we are all on the same page, so working with a much more informed audience than i'm used to. seen lots ofe headlines. this is not a new phenomenon.
[no audio] this is just the most recent expression of a long-standing desire to undermine western democratic society. what we see is significant escalation in both the tactics and scopes of the effort, starting well before the 2016 election and continuing today. russia tends to involve different messages for different audiences, for very different strategic goals. when we look at russian populations in eastern europe, but we saw was the overall approach is to exploit very contentious issues and drive wedges between population and the host governments. veryultimately to push a
pro-russia, anti-u.s., anti-nato message. it is a different approach when we take a look at the united states and europe. the goal is to stoke confusion like we saw with the use of police force and minority communities in order to the road trust in western democratic institutions. different approaches for different audiences. that is just the basic background. this briefing is not the much about the how. there's a lot of good news reporting out there, as well as academic reports that you can read, several from the rand corporation. when going to focus on today is what we can do about it working with the private sector and what social media companies and academics can do to combat that
threat today. current efforts to combat this information are really fragmented and incomplete. we had efforts within the fbi through their countering , thegn's task forces force socialt, to media companies to reveal the funding of ads purchased on the to what issimilarly a part of radio and television ads. for 2018, they required this voluntarily.
then, there are academic efforts, whether from ink tanks or academic institutions to identify authentic propaganda or inauthentic behavior, things like box, amplifying messages, but there's nothing linking all together andrts coordinating order to produce an entire suite of approaches to combat this and as a result, it may work in certain cases, none of them are bad approaches, but there is no overarching strategy. led was to look at a whole bunch of different news media and reports. expertsned with various and social media companies themselves, people with experience in media and people with experience and influence operations in the department of
understand what are some of the approaches we can take to actually combat this it, weand to talk about broke the problem into several steps, a framework recall a disinformation chain. how does this work, where does it start, what is the target and how did they get there? to understand both what russia did and what we can do about it. i will note that this is not unique to russia. with some tweaks, it could be applied to any adversary who tried to influence any country. frameworkcally just a to talk about the problem and breakdown solutions so you can understand what aspects it is targeting. starting out with this , someone inchain
leadership has to make a decision that they are going to perform and influence campaign and target this audience with this sort of message. in the example today, we are talking about russian leadership and then we have russian organs and proxies. we can break them up into two groups, one is attributed media, as well as state affiliated -- onand on a distributed unattributed groups. betweene some overlaps these two groups, but really do distinction here is where is that message not being generated, but where it is it -- where is it being spread?
accounts, and really counts manned by humans and fake accounts. people pretending to be someone else. messagesused to get higher in the newsfeed and take advantage of some of the algorithms to grab your attention and things like the u.s. news media which may amplify some of the messages and then on affiliated websites are . common source we put in here finally, the target of the disinformation campaign. prior research when we were looking at eastern europe, the goal not only included u.s. citizens, but also european citizens, native decision-makers and allies stop what are our options? looking at the first point, it is to -- it is the deterrence
approach. we look at a lot of different options. . lot -- if you are listed here he basically went through different ideas and talk about the pros and cons and costs of different approaches. just because they are not listed here does not mean i do not recommend doing it. for example, you could look at make it -- making it more difficult for these operations to succeed and occur russian leadership from engaging because it's not worth the cost. you could also take a more offensive approach, whether that is using sanctions, economic or political. you can go more offensive like promoting democracy in russia. it turns out the cons are quite large. some things that are more in the middle ground, enforcing clear
norms of behavior on the platforms. what is allowed, what is not. perhaps coming to a shared agreement about those norms. me?you all still hear these, onelimiting of the key things is you need to be able to identify them. naming and shaming is where you say this is a russian proxied -- pretending to be someone else, but they are actually sponsored by a particular actor. looking to curtail those activities and what media entities are left to do on social media platforms. looking at the amplification channels, the goal is to limit the impact and spread of disinformation. part of that is being able to identify and detect it and once
it is detected, either remove it or counter it, find an alternative narrative, something like that. this requires a lot of crows social mediatween companies and the public sector as well. finally, looking at the last link, we want to improve consumer knowledge and judgment. heard the most commonly things is to make sure children are able to understand between fact and fiction. the question is, how effective is that and is it worth the .oney, time and resources unfortunately, there's a lack of rigorous research in the area. elements of it? you can also look at studying and publicizing the impact of the -- of the information and
making people aware this is a problem and here is how from a personal perspective to understand how to distinguish it, but then why it might impact your. >> no single solution is perfect. they all have different pros and cons. what we have found is a suite of solutions that can target multiple links of different -- disinformation at the same time so that you are coming up with problems on multiple different perspectives. the first is establishing clear norms, both from nationstates and the media entities. it is possible that existing treaties could serve as a model, looking at the treaties and the use of chemical and biological weapons with several nations signing on to them, agreeing this is allowed in this is not allowed, but as with those treaties and more so
disinformation, attribution is going to be critical. how are you going to understand that this was pushed by the nationstate in violation of that treaty? that is the big thing here. we can also look at better coordinating activities on the legislative branch, looking at already forces that are -- making sure they're connected to efforts in developing legislation in congress to some of the foreign policy being theued and finally, department of defense, where a lies, the expertise making sure they are sharing that with the other areas of government. the question is, how do you actually make this happen?
is an executive order the right way to go. that i think is an open question . one of the most important recommendations that has the potential for succeeding is information sharing. back in the 1980's, we had the acting measures group which works to expose disinformation and traditional news media. disbanded,nce been but it doesn't have the same power and authority that it used to. you haverence here is the private social media companies. they have to be willing participants, so this organization needs to have an authority, expertise and it needs to be resourced. thelike a said, involve
private and public sector engagement. another thing could be to try to increase the transparency on the social media platforms. detectingey disinformation? how are they defining it and making that clear, not just to the government, but individual users of those platforms? is is it possible to increase the transparency. these all the rhythms and despite -- despite some of the nonsense by mark zuckerberg, will continue to drive their profits. looking at why you're singing -- seeing something in your news feed or trending topics. also, questions on what is allowed or not allowed. is there a way to increase the transparency without enabling adversaries to get around the rules? i think this is an interesting
area were more research could be performed. lines, how do we encourage academia to develop those tools? this could come from government sources, private sources like research grants. i think this is an area of rights for more investment and funding. here, they need access to real-world data. this is going to require operation from companies. orthere is an approach providing an alternative, how do ?e audit that new approach can we say it is worth the investment that we are putting into it? that is going to require some sort of cooperation. so how do you enable access to real-world data, maintain
privacy and protecting these companies profits? one of the things we think is important in this discussion is we don't go overboard. consequences the of engaging in over promoting democratic activity, democracy within russia has a much larger downside. essentially, we run the risk of being hypocritical. if we prioritize the defense of activities, make it harder for disinformation to succeed in united rates, that, we think has the most promise for being able to shape the decision-making. finally, it is really important to assess the impact of these solutions.
this is what we think right now could work. two years from now, 10 years from now may not be the same. it is important to not just say we did this thing and we are done. we need to continually assess how effective are these various solutions. are they worth the costs and resources. redoinging effective in -- reducing the overall amount of this information on the platforms? in summary, to give you a quick topp of some of the policies -- increasing government coordination, establishing and enforcing norms for media entities, prioritizing defense of activities over offenses activities. improving the attribution tools ,hrough funding academia
private companies, think tanks, basically improving technology to be able to say this is a piece of disinformation and how it impacts someone. part of the role of this organization would be to figure thea way to incentivize transparency of the algorithms on these private social media assessingand finally, the solution, not just doing a one and done approach, but actually taking a comprehensive look and understanding is this the right way to go or do we need to change direction? this is a problem that is only going to continue to grow and we will see more and more erosion in our democratic institutions, so this is something that needs action now, not just from a legislative side, but the negative and other
branches. thank you very much and i'm happy to take questions. [applause] >> you talked about companies incentivizing algorithms. algorithms are basically a competitive advantage, so how can you incentivize private companies to give out their algorithms? >> i think that is a great question. i think it is an area that needs more research. the question is how do you incentivize the private media companies to increase the transparency of their out rhythms, given that they are given a competitive advantage. challenge.is a
i think there is technology that could be used and implemented. forgive me if i get a little technical, but i'll rhythms space on techniques that could be leveraged in this area, where you can warm computations and assess the performance, perhaps you could provide information without revealing anything about the algorithm powering the newsfeed. thatresearch has advanced could be applied in this area. i think working through private partnerships where you have representatives from the company working together with researchers from the government to attack this problem together so they are sharing the relevant information. there needs to be some sort of theseng mechanism because
companies say they are doing things to fix the problems, but how do we know it is working? if ityou have an idea of would be governmental or nongovernmental? >> she asked me to describe more about what the organization would look like. i think it needs to be a government led organization. if you look at the different organizations that are already in the area, department of homeland security, they have a mission to protect the homeland. the fbi is more of an investigative role, so it would probably make sense to expand the role of the influence task influencing the agency, but given the actual
authority and resources which they don't have now to do this coronation and information sharing role and actually -- participation from social media companies. i'm not a legislative expert, so i don't know what the appropriate avenue might be, but perhaps that could be some sort of legislation that said this is the organization that has the authority. we have resourced them appropriately and in order to avoid increasing regulation we need to have active participation from these sorts of companies. i'm wonderingl, -- you mentioned at the beginning, but i wanted to know why you didn't develop on that. the second question is what do you think the role of news media organizations should be in all of this? >> i'll talk to the first question the role of media first, literacy.
i think the role of media literacy is very important. the reason that it hasn't risen to our top recommendation is basically because there's a lack of research on the ultimate effectiveness of media literacy campaigns and what goes into creating, what elements are really useful in that. i certainly don't think it's a bad idea to media literacy campaigns. i think it could only improve the situation but the question is really how much resources should be put against that person versus some of these other approaches to understand the ultimate impact of that. and then the second question [inaudible] >> what is the role of media organizations within this period
, i think would be interesting to promote some of the efforts that are already being done by media organizations to promote media literacy. some of the various education opportunities that are out there, there's a lot of really right resources already available on the internet i could be promoted by media organization but it's also a commitment to the quality of journalism to ensuring that they are not inadvertently spreading a piece of disinformation and trying to know if we're getting the culture the right way to put it but it's the problem at in her current new cycle, 24 hours new site, everything new coming out every single second. they jump on it otherwise delusive the story. bouncing that with the commitment to quality and ensuring that something is true and accurate is an important way to go. what -- >> the category of reinforcing northcom specifically naming and shaming, if that message is not going all the way to the top level of government, how can it be effective?
what ok, so let me make sure understand that question. if naming and shaming is not promoted all the way to the top level of government how can it possibly -- [inaudible] >> right. so, i think that's a valid point. i don't think -- it would be better certainly if there is consistency in messaging across the u.s. government, but these efforts i think you have the potential to succeed in spite of that if they are properly resourced and pursued. so, i think it's not even just been in shaming all these different approaches, making sure there's enough coronation happen and you support and resources behind the that they have the potential to succeed but without the sort of whole of government approach it's always going to be piecemeal, always going to be fragmented. in the back. were talking you
about prioritizing defense of offense, it's and like you're talking about a stepping back from promoting democracy in russia, which makes sense, but considering that something the russian government very much wants, or sensitivity to the revolution, is there danger we are rewarding bad behavior? show less text that's an >> that's an interesting question. so the question in terms of stepping back from promoting democracy within russia, is that rewarding bad behavior? i think that's an interesting perspective to take on it. not necessarily the one that i would have on it. i think that taking this step back looking at the larger picture and looking, if we really talking about deterrence, do we want to get into and create a world where we're trying to one up each other? are you ok with the consequences of that? you will hear people that are ok with that. if you look at the way we talked about it in our report our
conclusion is that that was the price we would pay and that it would ultimately be more effective if you just make this information network against our society. >> is it sufficient to make sure that the united states society prevented from being affected by disinformation or do you think there is a need to perhaps -- not promoting democracy in russia, making sure other countries in latin america or in europe, russian disinformation is not effective? secondly, did you perhaps talk about the role of u.s. partners as well? >> certainly. disinformation this , research was more just specific within the united
states but we have done some , research looking at u.s. allies and partners and disinformation around the world. i will call my colleague tom who is the author of a great report about understanding russian influence in eastern europe and so, the role of partners and allies, particularly in that arena is incredibly important, and making sure that we are both from a resourcing perspective and foreign policy perspective supporting those efforts, whether it's through various efforts with media, local media bigger -- organizations in promoting their ability. so, i would say there's no difference in my mind when you look at eastern europe south america, regardless the will partners and allies will be critical to this and yes it's , important to do it here at t home, but if we neglect partners and allies, been built into honor our our own anyway. it's certainly of importance, just not so much my focus today. >> one of your recommendations
or proposals was to come to share agreement with russia. who from american side should work on an agreement? >> talking about coming to a shared agreement in russia. that ended up not being one of our top recommendations. when we talked about we found it was probably just that effort on its own is not going to be particularly effective, given the potential for violations and how do you do attributions and all that stuff? so, we touched more on recommendations of establishing clear and enforceable norms. so, looking at the approach as something like the chemical or biological weapons treaty, multiple nations to sign on and agree to it, the key i think there is agreeing what is and is not allowed and everyone signing on to that.
so, you can't just say disinformation because will have different definitions of what disinformation means. so, actually being able to say in very concrete manner this is a allowed, this is not allowed and then be able to perform at attribution. i think out all of our top recommendations, that's probably the most challenging one. , if weould be executed could figure out a good way to attribution i think , it is potentially the most effective one, but it is one that has the most challenging because it requires a willing partner. any other questions? i've solved everything. >> all right. thank you all for coming. >> thank you. >> if there are no other >> sunday on q&a --
>> practically, i had no expectation we would be sitting here in 2019 talking about this war in afghanistan. the way it has been escalated, the way it escalated every year, the countless lives that have been wasted and the continuous suffering. hoiraq war veteran matthew on his article "time for peace in afghanistan and in and to the lies." >> the same i had seen in iraq 2004, 2005, 2 thousand 6, 2007 as well as one i work on iraq and afghan war issues in the state department between those times. there was no difference in the administrations. the desire was to win politically or to win for political reasons, domestic political reasons. everything else was secondary. >> matthew ho, sunday night at
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