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Home World The Mission to Counter Misinformation: A Briefing with former DNI James Clapper

The Mission to Counter Misinformation: A Briefing with former DNI James Clapper

In the summer time of 2016, then-Director of National Intelligence Lt. Gen. James Clapper started to detect a worrisome pattern.  It was an election 12 months, and he was beginning to see an uptick in Russian exercise round misinformation and disinformation that went properly past the same old playbook.  Russia had been identified to perform actions utilizing disinformation forward of earlier US elections so it wasn’t stunning at first.  The then-DNI  and different leaders inside the Intelligence Community anticipated a specific amount of ambient Russian exercise.  But not like what Clapper was seeing beginning to play out.

“Russia has a long history of interfering in their own and others’ elections, but never on a scale, aggressiveness, or breadth of scope as they did in our 2016 election,” Clapper advised The Cipher Brief final week.

Clapper wrote extensively about what he noticed in his 2018 ebook, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, together with how Russian hackers started using ways round social media and the way rapidly they have been spreading throughout the accounts of US individuals, which launched an issue for the IC.  “The reason we were slow on the uptake in that is that there is a reticence about monitoring U.S. communications, even if they’re publicly available,” Clapper advised us.

He nonetheless had the small print of Edward Snowden’s theft and leaking of intelligence secrets and techniques in 2013 contemporary in his thoughts and the clear understanding of how messages about what the federal government was really doing, and below what authority, could possibly be simply misplaced within the media noise.  

“After being burnt by Snowden on that sort of thing, I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been in pushing the community to pay attention to what was going on in social media,” stated Clapper.

What Clapper was detecting in 2016 and what it’s at present, has been fueled by one other rising phenomenon of what a latest RAND examine refers to as ‘truth decay’: the diminishing function that information and evaluation have performed in America – not simply over the course of 1 presidential administration – however during the last 20 years.  RAND defines ‘truth decay’ as an rising disagreement over information that tends to blur strains between what’s somebody’s opinion and what’s truth and the way opinion now appears to have extra affect that truth in American society.  The draw back is that the end result has been a decline in trusting what have been lengthy thought of ‘trusted sources’.

“There is a phenomenon where we disregard facts, empirical data, and objective analysis, and this is only proliferated by social media where people live in different reality bubbles,” Clapper advised us.  “This problem is not going to be able to be solved by a whole of government approach, it needs a whole of society effort.”

What would the results of that whole-of-society effort appear to be? Clapper has an concept about that. “The basic format may be modeled after intelligence community products. The PDB [Presidential Daily Brief] could be one format.  That would be a one-page article and would certainly be useful. I also think more in-depth products like the NIE [National Intelligence Assessment] would provide more depth. Overall, I would model these products after what the community produces now and there are a variety of formats and templates that could be used for that.”

Let’s discuss it.  Read the Background Brief under after which be a part of us Wednesday, February 24 at 1:30p as we get a briefing from Lt. Gen. Clapper on why one thing like that is wanted in at present’s intelligence neighborhood and what’s in danger if we don’t get this proper.  Members obtain registration hyperlinks by way of e mail.  Not a member?  That’s a simple repair.

Background Brief:  A Key overview of Misinformation and Disinformation


Misinformation is the communication of false or deceptive info and not using a particular intention to deceive.

Disinformation is a particular sort of misinformation in which there’s an intentional dissemination of false info in an try to intentionally deceive. Simply put, disinformation is the crime with the intent. It turns into essential in understanding the distinction between these two overarching phrases.

  • A examine carried out in 2018 by researchers at MIT discovered that “false news” spreads quicker than actual news on social media. The examine which targeted on the platform Twitter, highlights a rising concern, that misinformation by its very nature is extra vulnerable to virality. MIT
  • The probability of false info posted on Twitter being retweeted and shared was discovered to be greater than 70%. MIT Sloan
  • Technology has enabled international actors to covertly introduce division in democratic establishments throughout the globe.

2020 U.S. Presidential election:

Russia’s efforts to affect the 2020 U.S. presidential election have been much less profitable than in 2016, due partially to the coordination between the FBI and social media corporations like Facebook and Twitter in figuring out and eradicating foreign-based disinformation accounts. (NBC)

  • Leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Russia’s Internet Research Agency recruited American freelance journalists to write articles for a Russian-owned news website, known as Peace Data, that have been designed to divide Democratic voters. (Washington Post)
  • Russia amplified claims of voter fraud by mail-in voting in an effort to forged doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. (FPRI)

Recent U.S. authorities approaches to disinformation:

  • 2017: Russia’s Sputnik News primarily led a disinformation assault, inflicting hassle for U.S. forces in Germany. This prompted the U.S. Army’s Europe Command to fight the unfold of disinformation by creating a particular crew referred to as the Mis/Dis Tiger Team. C4ISR
  • 2019: DoD had been steadily revamping their info operations capabilities given the rise in misinformation since 2016. The U.S. authorities’s view of battle has made it troublesome to fight misinformation campaigns that focus on the US civilian inhabitants. C4ISR
  • 2020: The U.S. and its allies made efforts to message individuals in Iraq and Syria in an effort to deal with their viewers within the area, construct relationships, and attain out to journalists. The conclusion of the trouble was that whereas social media disseminated info quicker, news retailers reached extra individuals. This turned an method in 2020, with some suggesting that troops on the bottom be given cameras and dependable WiFi so they might add content material that might fight disinformation efforts. C4ISR

U.S. tech companies in combating misinformation:

  • March 2020: The World Health Organization discusses the pandemic as an info disaster as a lot as a well being disaster, saying that disinformation about COVID-19 was spreading quicker than the virus itself.
  • Sept 2020: Twitter publicly introduced that they might label and take away posts that unfold disinformation.
  • Oct 2020: Twitter started altering labels concerning misinformation and making an attempt to tackle violators in a more-timely method.  Reuters
  • Nov 2020: Facebook, Twitter, and Google joined the non-profit Full Fact in an effort to higher fight misinformation concerning Covid-19 and conspiracies surrounding it. The Guardian
  • Jan 2021: Google News Initiative launched a venture in opposition to misinformation concerning the COVID-19 vaccinations. A massive a part of this system is devoted to truth checking and disseminating info to teams which are generally focused by misinformation campaigns. Reuters

Cipher Brief Interns Maxx Annunziata, Alexis Laszlo and Brian Hoffarth contributed analysis for this piece.

Join us for a non-public briefing on Misinformation with Former Director of National Intelligence Lt. Gen. James Clapper (Ret.) on Wednesday, February 24.  Cipher Brief Members obtain registration hyperlinks by way of e mail.

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