At a glance.
- Learning lessons from Ukraine's influence operations.
- Russian biowar claims.
- Russian disinformation seeks allies in the Global South.
- Hearings in the US Senate suggest an enduring tension between content moderation and free speech.
Learning lessons from Ukraine's influence operations.
Ukrainian influence operations, including rumor control, marketing, and countering of adversary messaging, have been surprisingly successful, especially when compared to the heavy-handed tone and limited effect of the Russian opposition's information operations. Observers of the hybrid war are looking for lesson to be learned, and nowhere is the influence campaign being more closely studied than in Taiwan. Taiwan and Ukraine have been increasingly bracketed together. Both have a large, powerful and hostile neighbor who regards them as rebellious or at least separated provinces, and in the view of those big neighbors, conquest would be a rectification and not aggression.
Taiwan has, Reuters reports, followed a "humor over rumor" approach to messaging as it worked against Chinese COVID-19 disinformation, and it sees some confirmation in Ukraine's experience that this remains a useful approach. Audrey Tang, Taipei's Digital Affairs Minister, told Reuters, "As we have seen with the Ukrainian example there are also people who use ideas of even comedy, but certainly Internet memes, to spread a message that rallies the people."
This phase of hybrid conflict between China and Taiwan is already underway, Tang said. "From my point of view it's my daily life. Already, the kind of propaganda as you call it, the kind of narratives going on on Twitter, that's already what we face daily."
Russian biowar claims.
The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office tweeted last Wednesday, "Russia has spread disinformation, including wild and inconsistent claims involving biological weapons, to try to justify its aggression against Ukraine. Day 3 of the #1972BWC Article V consultative meeting, set aside for statements by other delegations. highlighted Russia’s track record of bioweapons disinformation. Normal - Article X cooperation is being demonised - which is dangerous for the Convention."
Russian disinformation seeks allies in the Global South.
Russian propaganda seeks to shift blame for food shortages to Ukraine and (especially) the EU. The British Ministry of Defence over the weekend described recent Russian messaging: "On 07 September 2022, President Putin said that only 60,000 tonnes of the grain exported from Ukraine since August had been sent to developing countries, and that the majority had been delivered to EU states. Putin's claim is not true. According to UN figures, around 30% has been supplied to low and middle-income countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Russia is pursuing a deliberate misinformation strategy as it seeks to deflect blame for food insecurity issues, discredit Ukraine and minimise opposition to its invasion."
Hearings in the US Senate suggest an enduring tension between content moderation and free speech.
Hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee (which featured testimony by Twitter whistleblower Peiter "Mudge" Zatko) and the Senate Homeland Security Committee (with appearances by present and former executives of Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media platforms) took up, inter alia, issues of dis- and misinformation. The Homeland Security Committee especially was concerned with what a number of Senators perceived as social media's failure to address content moderation adequately. It's not simply the content of posts, which is where in the Committee's view much of the platforms' attention has been focused, but in texts, which themselves can publish views that spread "virally," uncontrollably.
Mudge had little to say about content moderation, but he did suggest to the Senators that those efforts were overseen by corporate counsel, and, on advice of his own counsel, even a whistleblower should stay clear of corporate counsel.