Information operations

New RAND Research: Lessons for Future Department of Defense Social Media Analysis in Support of Information Operations


 

Monitoring Social Media

Lessons for Future Department of Defense Social Media Analysis in Support of Information Operations

William Marcellino, Meagan L. Smith, Christopher Paul, Lauren Skrabala

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THE REPORT

Although there are compelling national security reasons to field a social media analysis capability, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must do so while navigating U.S. law and cultural norms and under conditions of great uncertainty. To support DoD’s assessment of the benefits, trade-offs, and implementation challenges as it expands its capacity for social media analysis, this report reviews valuable analytic approaches for information operations, as well as legal, ethical, policy, technological, and training considerations. It also includes a set of recommendations to help DoD navigate this terrain while building a robust, effective social media analysis capability to support operations worldwide.

Key Findings

  • Social media analysis can provide important information about adversaries and other key populations. It can also inform efforts to target messages to particular audiences or influence perceptions, decisions, or behaviors.
  • Monitoring social media traffic will help ensure that U.S. forces are prepared to respond to developing events or the spread of deceptive information.
  • U.S. law and policy have not kept up with changing adversaries and changes in the types of activities in which U.S. forces engage.
  • Laws intended to protect privacy and restrict domestic surveillance do not account for key characteristics of social media, such as the intermingling of domestic and foreign communication and the risk of collecting data on U.S. persons.
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Please send comments about the study to:

William Marcellino (author)
bmarcell@rand.org
Behavioral & Social Scientist
RAND National Defense Research Institute

John D. Winkler, Ph.D.
jwinkler@rand.org
Director, Forces and Resources Policy Center
RAND National Defense Research Institute

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