Categories
Research Program

Competing in the Gray Zone

The RAND Corporation think tank has released a new report on Russia’s gray zone tactics in targeting international opinion:

Recent events in Crimea and the Donbass in eastern Ukraine have upended relations between Russia and the West, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Although Russia’s actions in Ukraine were, for the most part, acts of outright aggression, Russia has been aiming to destabilize both its “near abroad” — the former Soviet states except for the Baltics — and wider Europe through the use of ambiguous “gray zone” tactics. These tactics include everything from propaganda and disinformation to election interference and the incitement of violence.

To better understand where there are vulnerabilities to Russian gray zone tactics in Europe and how to effectively counter them, the RAND Corporation ran a series of war games. These games comprised a Russian (Red) team, which was tasked with expanding its influence and undermining NATO unity, competing against a European (Green) team and a U.S. (Blue) team, which were aiming to defend their allies from Red’s gray zone activities without provoking an outright war. In these games, the authors of this report observed patterns of behavior from the three teams that are broadly consistent with what has been observed in the real world. This report presents key insights from these games and from the research effort that informed them.

This is an interesting contemporary use of wargaming methodologies.

Categories
Research Program

RAND’s Counter-Disinformation Tools

The Rand Corporation has recently released a directory of web tools to combat online disinformation:

The rise of the internet and the advent of social media have fundamentally changed the information ecosystem, giving the public direct access to more information than ever before. But it’s often nearly impossible to distinguish accurate information from low-quality or false content. This means that disinformation—false or intentionally misleading information that aims to achieve an economic or political goal—can become rampant, spreading further and faster online than it ever could in another format.

As part of its Countering Truth Decay initiative, and with support from the Hewlett Foundation, RAND is responding to this urgent problem. Our researchers identified and characterized the universe of online tools developed by nonprofits and civil society organizations to target online disinformation. These tools were created to help information consumers, researchers, and journalists navigate today’s challenging information environment.

I’ll make several observations on this useful collection of resources. Fighting disinformation has moved from the cultic milieu of the former Disinformation subculture search engine to policy think tanks. The election of United States President Donald Trump and the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote – both in 2016 – has created a secondary market in tools to counter online disinformation. The other thing evident from RAND’s list is the emphasis on gamification as a cognitive strategy to engage the public.