Information operations · Information Warfare · Public Diplomacy · Strategic Communication · Strategic Communications

Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy “Seen on the Web” (#77) July 4, 2017

[link to poster]


In The News

  1. Election 2016 Controversies

Elements of Informational Power


Professional Topics

  2. 8. CYBER

Countries and Regions

  2. 23. FINLAND
  3. CHINA
  7. SYRIA


  1. 30. EXCHANGES


In The News

  • “It was and is within the technical capacity of Russia and other nation states to interfere with our elections and to change votes,” Edward Felten, former deputy chief technology officer under President Obama and now a computer scientist at Princeton University, told NBC News. “We’re fortunate that they chose not to do it.”

Congress Must Stop Russia’s Meddling in Our Elections

A.B. Stoddard, Real Clear Politics, June 26, 2017

  • As has been said countless times, all this cyber and talk about cyber and it accomplished almost nothing during the election. Yes, cyber is a problem but it was not a significant player during the election, not at all. Yes, Russia tried, but no, they did not succeed. Information caused the damage and influenced massive populations around the world. Russia was doing disinformation, propaganda, and trolling against the US specifically and the world in general, long before this.

All This Talk About Cyber But That Is Only The Tip Of The Russian Information Warfare Iceberg

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, June 24, 2017

  • Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault

Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Adam Entous, The Washington Post, June 23, 2017

  • “They [political parties] need to understand that parties outside of the political sphere have their own agenda and can use cyber propaganda and misinformation to influence campaigns and elections as well; this is something that political parties need to understand and defend against, if needed.”

Here’s how much it costs to buy ‘fake news’ online

Matt Burgess, Wired, June 13, 2017

  • In both cyberhacking and cyberinfluence, the Kremlin’s layering of proxies and agents mask Russia’s responsibility, confuse fact and fiction, and frustrate Western efforts to stop the march of Russian Active Measures. Russian Active Measures to sway the U.S. election, by design, sought to obscure attribution through denial and deception. Whether a physical incursion or a digital revolution, the Kremlin confuses reality to push their preferred perception of strength and widespread support.

Putin’s Hidden Insurgency Tore Up Ukraine. Now It’s Coming for Your Inbox.

Clint Watts, Daily Beast, June 2, 2017

Elements of Informational Power

  • President Trump has stated his commitment to defeating Islamist terror. This cannot be accomplished by military means, which are necessary but insufficient, nor in short order. “We understand that we cannot kill an ideology,” a prominent Israeli leader once acknowledged to me. Defeating Islamist terror is fundamentally a political and diplomatic task, requiring the defeat of the twisted ideology that animates it.

I Was U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.  The Military Can’t Fix This Mess Alone

James Cunningham, The National Interest, June 29, 2017

  • July 2017 marks exactly 40 years since the Photography USA exhibit came to my hometown of Novosibirsk, in what was then the USSR. It was part of one of the most successful hearts-and-minds campaigns the United States has ever undertaken.

Walking in Each Other’s Shoes, Through the Iron Curtain and Back

Izabella Tabarovsky, The Wilson Quarterly, June 28, 2017

  • In South Korea’s foreign ministry, the older generation entered the foreign service soon after the democratization period of the late 1980s. * * * The older generation remains wed to a centralized structure that sees English language social media platforms run in the same way as faxes from the 1980s – authoritative, black and white boring, monolingual, unidirectional and unengaging. The younger generation are avid users of social media; are at ease engaging on domestic and international platforms; but remain reluctant to do so openly for fear of attracting the scorn of seniors in the foreign ministry.

Can South Korea Exploit its Generation Gap to Strengthen Digital Diplomacy?

Jeffrey Robertson, CPD Blog, June 8, 2017


The State Department has several bureaus involved in working to deliver credible information to audiences in the U.S. and abroad as well as to counter disinformation. For instance, the Global Engagement Center — initially formed as an office focused on countering terrorist propaganda — saw its efforts expand to include countering propaganda from Russia, China and other nations as a result of legislation last year.

GOP lawmaker: State Dept cuts would hurt counter-disinformation efforts

Morgan Chalfant, TheHill, June 29, 2017

  • For years, Russia has been involved in public relations campaigns that have been developed and deployed by prominent, U.S.-based, global PR firms – campaigns intended to influence American public opinion and policy in ways that advance Russia’s strategic interests.

Putin’s flack’s: Russia’s Stealth Public Relations War

Sue Curry Janson, The Conversation, June 29, 2017

  • 2016 was a transformational year for U.S. international media. With unprecedented strategic coordination, the networks of the BBG—Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting

(Radio and TV Martí), Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks —have impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world by providing accurate, unbiased and uncensored news and

information. [John Lansing]

2016 Annual Report

Broadcasting Board of Governors, June, 2016

  • . . . this report is a great start and I am pleased to see great improvement in performance and the initiation of Measurements of Impact and for Current Time, the new Russian language program. I am saddened, however, at the initiative lost by not making more details available and not allowing concerned readers to research more about the impact you have on the world, especially in denied areas. You need to be a PR machine, selling yourself and selling America.  If Sputnik cites you. If RT makes fun of you. If Putin mentions you, you are having an effect in Russia and the world needs to know. If Kim Jong Un, Mearir, or KCNA uses one of your reports, tell the world. BBG, this is fair and objective reporting amidst an information war and you are a witting combatant.

Assessment of Broadcasting Board of Governors 2016 Annual Report

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, June 27, 2017

  • The Russian state-sponsored news outlet Sputnik is entering the Washington, D.C., radio market in an effort to push back against what it called “constant attacks” by U.S. media companies. Sputnik Radio announced Friday that it has taken over 105.5 FM, which previously aired bluegrass music.

Russian radio takes over local DC station

Max Greenwood, TheHill, June 30, 2017

  • The development of a ROK/U.S. combined whole of government information and influence activities campaign supported by SOF psychological operations forces is necessary to target the regime elite, second tier leaders, and the population to psychologically prepare them for what comes next: war, regime collapse, and ultimately unification. In conclusion, we need the development of a holistic alliance strategy for North Korea as part of the strategies of both the new U.S. and ROK administrations.

How U.S., South Korean Special Ops Would Join Forces in a New Korean War

David Maxwell, The Cipher Brief, June 18, 2017

Professional Topics

  • Of these many old rules about the Internet, three of them — Godwin’s, Poe’s and, er, Rule 34 — have managed to stay particularly useful for explaining basically the whole of Internet culture.

Porn, Nazis and Sarcasm: How these 3 Old Rules Basically Explain the entire Internet

Abby Ohlheiser, The Washington Post, June 23, 2017

  • Consider using bots as the electronic equivalent of herding sheep. Political operations involving bots are typically initiated by a number of “shepherd” accounts, human users with a large following. They are then amplified by “sheepdog” accounts, also run by humans, who boost the signal and harass critics.

Why Bot Makers Dream of Electric Sheep: Using fake social media accounts to attract real users

Ben Nimmo, Atlantic Council, June 22, 2017

  • The emergence of the internet and social media made it easier to quickly spread word of such accusations and orchestrate campaigns demanding that faculty members be disciplined. What’s new about the latest controversies, Mr. Tiede says, is the extent to which instructors and their employers are being deluged with threats of various forms of violence, including sexual assault.

Professors’ Growing Risk: Harassment for Things They Never Really Said

Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2017

  • Precisely because religion and culture are being weakened by globalization, they have to be reinvented in more severe, monochromatic, and ideological form by way of the communications revolution. Witness Boko Haram and the Islamic State, which do not represent Islam per se, but Islam igniting with the tyrannical conformity and mass hysteria inspired by the internet and social media.

The Return of Marco Polo’s World and the U.S. Military Response

Robert D. Kaplan, CNAS Stories, June 21, 2017

  • The CPRP researchers examined the spread of news and opinion with covert support from governments or political parties on social media in nine countries, and found that social media is now a central pillar of the state’s efforts to shape and control public opinion at home and abroad.

Social Media Is A Propaganda Powerhouse

Erik Sass, Social Media Insider, June 21, 2017

  • Examples of trolling and intimidation abound in Nordic countries: Finland knows of a sad, but well-documented example of how the phenomenon of trolling has been be taken to a new level as openly Russia-affiliated activists are accused of intimidating journalists that cover Russian affairs, or journalists that decide to investigate the phenomenon of trolling.

Intimidation as a propaganda tool in the Nordic countries

Euromaidan Press, June 19, 2017

  • There is a strangely large percentage of Trump’s followers — and especially his newest followers — that have only the most rudimentary account information, with no profile picture, few followers and little sign that they have ever tweeted. These are so-called “egg followers” because instead of a profile photo they traditionally carried the image of a blank egg on Twitter account pages. And that, say some researchers, is odd.

‘Something fishy’ is going on with Trump’s Twitter account, researchers say

Craig Timberg, The Washington Post, May 31, 2017

  • Every time President Donald Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyse what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. * * * Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency.

Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for foreign spies

Nada Bakos, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 25, 2017

  1. CYBER
  • To beef up their hacking capabilities, Russia, China, and other digital adversaries are offering cyber criminals a bargain: Use your talents for spy agencies, in exchange for legal immunity.

How Russia and others use cybercriminals as proxies

Jack Detsch, The Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2017

  • U.K. Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Tuesday that his country is regularly and successfully utilizing offensive cyberweapons within Iraq and other areas under control of the Islamic State.

U.K. confirms use of offensive cyberweapons against ISIS

Ryan Johnston, Cyberscoop, June 27, 2017

  • China and Canada have signed an agreement vowing not to conduct state-sponsored cyber attacks against each other aimed at stealing trade secrets or other confidential business information. * * * In 2015, China and the United States came to a similar understanding on corporate cyber espionage, after the Obama administration had mulled targeted sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against U.S. commercial targets.

China, Canada vow not to conduct cyber attacks on private sector

Subrat Patnaik, Michael Martina, David Ljunggren, and Ben Blanchard, Reuters, June 26, 2017

  • The Parliamentary Digital Service . . . said “Closer investigation by our team confirmed that hackers were carrying out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords. These attempts specifically were trying to gain access to users emails.” Which are, after all, a juicy target if they’ve left sensitive stuff in their inboxes, or if Parliamentary email credentials let attackers get deeper into Parliamentary resources.

UK parliamentary email compromised after ‘sustained and determined cyber attack’

Simon Sharwood, The Register, June 26, 2017

  • The U.S. military’s reported inability to effectively “drop cyber bombs” on the Islamic State is raising new questions about the military’s existing “cyberweapons arsenal,” a loosely defined collage of digital warfare capabilities shrouded in secrecy.

Why the U.S. is struggling with the digital war on ISIS

Chris Bing, Cyber Scoop, June 14, 2017

  • “I don’t pursue every attacker, just the ones that piss me off,” Mr. Ben-Oni told me recently over lentils in his office, which was strewn with empty Red Bull cans. “This pissed me off and, more importantly, it pissed my wife off, which is the real litmus test.”

A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For’

Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times, June 22, 2017

  • Canada’s main international cyber agency is gaining the power to launch cyber-attacks worldwide to take action against terrorist organizations, state-sponsored hackers, and foreign governments.

Canada’s cyber spy agency is about to get a major upgrade

Justin Ling, Vice, June 21, 2017

  • In Russia’s shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality.

How an Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab For Cyberwar

Andy Greenberg, Wired, June 20, 2017

  • Facebook has admitted that “AI can’t catch everything,” and it remains heavily dependent on human moderators to flush out terrorist posts on the free content ad network.

Facebook sics AI on terrorist posts, but humans still do the dirty work

Kelly Fiveash, ars Technica, June 16, 2017

  • The Estonia-based Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCE) is a major incubator for developing NATO’s next-generation defensive and offensive weaponry. Located in Tallinn, the CCDCE operates as the Alliance’s foremost accredited research and training facility dealing with cyber defense, testing and R&D.

NATO working out how to conduct operations in cyberspace

Gerard O’Dwyer, Fifth Domain, June 13, 2017

  • . . . private entities are reluctantly but increasingly complementing their passive cybersecurity practices with more assertive “active cyber defense” (ACD) measures. This approach carries substantial risks, but if guided by bounding principles and industry models, it also has the potential for long-term, cumulative benefits.

Private Sector Cyber Defense

Wyatt Hoffman and Ariel E. Levite, Carnegie Endowment, 2017

  • We’ve learned something from the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the US election that has nothing to do with politics. Humans are more vulnerable than ever to propaganda, and we have no clue what to do about it.

We desperately need a way to defend against online propaganda

Annalee Newitz, ars Technica, June 26, 2017

  • “[Gaslighting] is like someone saying the sky is green over and over again, and at first you’ll be like ‘no, no,’” says Gail Saltz, MD a psychiatrist and host of the podcast The Power of Different. “Then over time the person starts to manipulate you into saying ‘I guess I can’t really see what color the sky is.’ It’s just this sense of unreality.”

How Gaslighting Affects Your Mental Health

Julia Naftulin, Motto, June 20, 2017

  • . . . deploy an effective counter-propaganda operation and lay bare jihadi contradictions, exaggerations, and hypocrisy. The varied sociopolitical geography of Salafi jihadism will require a finely tuned approach. Any message originating in the United States will be immediately discredited. Therefore, overt U.S. Government projects should not be considered. Covert counter-information operations will need to be given priority.

Black is the New Red: Containing Jihad

Scott Englund, Joint Force Quarterly, June 20, 2017

  • This week, pro-Kremlin disinformation time-travelled to medieval times, suggesting that the West and/or NATO planned to reduce Russia after the fall of the USSR to the size of the historical Grand Duchy of Moscow.* * * it was stated on Russian state TV that Ukraine is implementing a secret plan designed by the US to conduct a genocide of ethnic Russians in Donbas. * * * As usual, there is an abundance of false claims concerning [Ukraine]. Apart from the usual allegations; Ukrainian authorities are terrorists and the current President came to power through a coup d’etat, we also saw some less regular pieces of disinformation.

A return to medieval times?

EU East Stratcom Task Force, Disinformation Review, June 29, 2017

  • El Bus TV is a new initiative launched by a group of journalists, artists, audiovisual producers and other professionals who read newscasts directly to riders on city buses. The group was formed in Caracas by Claudia Lizardo and Laura Helena Castillo with the aim of playing a small role in the fight against misinformation amid increasing censorship in Venezuela.

Venezuelans turn city buses into newsrooms in order to fight disinformation

Lillian Michael, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, June 26, 2017

  • As the United States grapples with the implications of Kremlin interference in American politics, European . . . . counterintelligence officials, legislators, researchers and journalists have devoted years — in some cases, decades — to the development of ways to counter Russian disinformation, hacking and trolling. And they are putting them to use as never before.

Europe has been working to expose Russian meddling for years

Dana Priest and Michael Birnbaum, The Washington Post, June 25 2017

  • . . . the disinformation campaign of hatred against the United States and the West fomented by the Soviets in the Third World (to include the simmering Islamic East) continues to cause protracted and catastrophic damage to the West. * * * And despite the fall of the Soviet Union, the KGB-inspired hatred of the West and the U.S. fomented by disinformation has not only persisted but grown exponentially

Disinformation — Part 1: Strategic deception to undermine the Church, the West, and America as revealed by Romanian defector Ion Mihai Pacepa (2013)

Miguel A. Faria, Macon, June 22, 2017

  • The peculiar story of an American B-52 plane, which by accident dropped a nuclear bomb over a building in a Lithuanian town emerged in some outlets the latest week.* * * We have once before summed up some of the preposterous claims in pro-Kremlin disinformation about Mr. George Soros. He has previously been accused of controlling the US Government and of abolishing the office of the president in the Czech Republic, among other things.

Nuclear bomb over Lithuania?

EU East Stratcom Task Force, Disinformation Review, June 22, 2017

  • But the threat posed by disinformation goes beyond the spread of false stories. Disinformation is more than “fake news.” It is a strategy primarily deployed by the Kremlin, amplified by Russian-affiliated social media accounts, organizations, and media outlets, and supported by data theft. It is not random. It has an intent and an aim. It also goes beyond the US elections and elections in general.

Why Talk About Disinformation Now?

Alina Polyakova, Atlantic Council, June 21, 2017

  • The most common way that fake news spreads is from laziness. See the recent account published by the New York Times a fake story about the electronic jamming and an American plane over the Black Sea. That would have been stopped by journalists being more responsible and understanding sources. No tool can stop that.

[Interview] “Most common way that fake news spreads is from laziness” – Aric Toler (Bellingcat)

Stop Fake, June 16, 2017

  • Michael Chertoff, former US Secretary of Homeland Security * * * thought that taking measures against fraud and impersonation much more promising and far less dangerous to free speech than proposals for content filtering and censorship. * * * A related threat is the one posed by bots, especially those used to spread disinformation in social media. “Botnets don’t enjoy First Amendment protection,” he observed. Better, more reliable ways of distinguishing bots from natural persons would be welcome.

Fake news and free speech: a different look.

The Cyber Wire, June 13, 2017

  • . . . we are still pretty much in the dark the extent to which fake news, trolls, and bots can draw countries into war or escalate a diplomatic crisis. Can countries with good relations be pitted against each other through computational propaganda? Or is it more effective to use these methods to escalate existing tensions between already hostile governments?

Can Fake News Lead to War? What the Gulf Crisis Tells Us

  1. Akin Unver, War on the Rocks, June 13, 2017
  • There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College. . . . CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information. CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news.

What kinds of fake news exist?

Phillips Exeter Academy Library, January 2017

  • The bullshit asymmetry: the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. * * * Ironically, it seems that the “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” quote isn’t from Mark Twain but a slightly modified version of Charles Spurgeon’s “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on” (1859) which, in turn, might be inspired by Jonathan Swift’s “falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it” (1710).

Brandolini’s law

Ordre Spontane, July 8, 2014

  • After taking the course, you should be able to: • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet. • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it. • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit. • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit. • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

Discovery: Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, June 28, 2017

  • These new vectors include a range of disparate approaches that are sometimes used together, all under the misleading general rubric “election hacking.” Here’s how they work: 1. Hacking into the servers of political parties, parliaments and political figures * * * 2. Publishing hacked emails * * * 3. Spreading fake news on social media * * * 4. Social media robots or “bots” spreading misinformation * * * 5. Algorithms processing big data to target voters with highly individualized political advertisements * * * 6. Hacking voter rolls

We Must Ensure Democratic Integrity In The Digital Age

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Huffpost, June 28, 2017

  • We must counter the Russians’ revisionist, anti-Western propaganda and other forms of “hybrid” warfare aimed at undermining our democracies. And we must go on the counterattack: using old and new technologies to project the Western narrative to Russian audiences; and supporting the aspirations of the Russian people for freedom and democracy over the longer term.

Here’s How to Fight Back Against Russian Political Warfare

Alexander Vershbow, Atlantic Council, June 21, 2017

  • “Information confrontation,” or IPb (informatsionnoye protivoborstvo), is the Russian government’s term for conflict in the information sphere. IPb includes diplomatic, economic, military, political, cultural, social, and religious information arenas, and encompasses two measures for influence: informational-technical effect and informational-psychological effect. * * * Informational-psychological effect refers to attempts to change people’s behavior or beliefs in favor of Russian governmental objectives. IPb is designed to shape perceptions and manipulate the behavior of target audiences.

[Report] Russia Military Power

Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), 2017

  • [In the Netherlands] We focus on preventive and repressive measures. Let me start with prevention, or countering violent extremism. . . . no one is born a terrorist. People, youngsters, become terrorists under the influence of others, be it through the Internet or in their own neighborhoods.* * * Regarding repression . . . no one is born as a terrorist, but when someone becomes one, we will act.

Islamist Terrorism in the West

Dick Schoof, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 16, 2017

  • Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith. * * * Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith.

In Germany, a new ‘feminist’ Islam is hoping to make a mark

Anthony Faiola, Stephanie Kirchner, The Washington Post, June 17, 2017


  • A fascination with violence is characteristic of extremist narratives and propaganda across different forms of extremism. Their violence and resulting human suffering is displayed and emphasized in the communication, frequently with heartbreaking footage of dead, wounded, or suffering civilians. Our violence is glorified and celebrated as the only possible response to the injustices occurring. The consequences of extremists’ violence are glossed over, or the victims portrayed as faceless and anonymous non-humans.

The Roots of Violent Extremism

Troy E. Mitchell, Small Wars Journal, June 15, 2017

  • Respected Russian defense attorney and legal scholar Genri Reznik has resigned from the faculty of the Moscow State Law Academy to protest the installation there of a plaque commemorating a 1924 speech by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Noted Russian Defense Lawyer Balks At Moscow Law School’s Tribute To Stalin

Yelizaveta Mayetnaya and Robert Coalson, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 28, 2017

  • Since 2011, monuments to Reagan have been erected Europe, and now pro-freedom officials in Ukraine, still threatened by Moscow, wants to put a statue of the Gipper in the center of Kiev and on the spot where the bronze of a former communist leader stood until the Soviet Union broke up.

Reagan statue to replace communist in Kiev square, called ‘act of heroism’

Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, June 21, 2017

  • Unlike misinformation, disinformation is constructed to be deliberately false, with the intention of sowing discord in enemy ranks. While there are undoubtedly historical examples, the industrialisation of disinformation emerged with the modernisation of media and mass communication.* * * Operation Infektion is a timely reminder that falsehoods have serious consequence.

Russian fake news is not new: Soviet Aids propaganda cost countless lives

David Robert Grimes, The Guardian, June 14, 2017

  • . . . if you’re going to report as a fact that something is a lie, you have to know that it’s not only an untruth, not only a falsehood, you have to be able to be able to impute two things in the mind of the speaker: one, knowledge that it is actually untrue; and two, a deliberate intent to deceive. * * * Are we going to be in a position where we’re going to have to test every single statement that’s put to us not on the grounds of truth and falsehood, which is what we do, but in an attempt to understand the intent and the motivation of the speaker? I think it’s an extraordinary burden to place on us.

The Wall Street Journal’s Editor: Beware Calling Donald Trump a Liar

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, June 28, 2017

  • Given how widespread the Islamist ideology has become, and its appeal is yet to show signs of slowing, it is essential that the ideas underpinning Islamism be delegitimised. Part of this process must be to encourage a shift away from a Salafi-inspired view of music, and the adoption of a more reformist approach to the relevant scripture. Music is much too important, too beautiful, too spiritually nourishing to be viewed with such disdain.

Music and Islamism: Why Islamists target music venues

Sandy Buglass, Quilliam, June 14, 2017

  • John Nagl considers USIP a “combat multiplier,” insofar as its specialists “understand cultures and tribal and local politics more deeply and more instinctually than anyone but the very best and rare American soldiers.” . . . Peter Mansoor lauded the institute’s “staying power.” When the Defense and State Departments move on to the next crisis, he said, “USIP stays behind for a longer-term commitment.” . . . Moreover, USIP isn’t beholden to the embassy’s chain of command. Its staff can maneuver around the country to places where neither the State Department nor USAID is permitted.

Will the COINdinistas Rise Again?

Zach Abels, The National Interest, May 3, 2017

  • In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever we need shortcuts or rules of thumb to guide our decision-making. My own research has identified just six of these shortcuts as universals that guide human behavior, they are: * * * Reciprocity * * * Scarcity * * * Authority * * * Consistency * * * Liking * * * Consensus * * *

Principles of Persuasion

Influence at Work

  • The United States is a country. America is something more—not only the most powerful state, but the cultural, economic, and institutional center of a world that it has partially recreated in its own image.The West does not have a good word to describe America in this expanded sense because the modern West has never seen something like it before. The last time a whole world was so organized around a single, central state was in the fifteenth century, when East Asia was centered on Ming-dynasty China.

American Tianxia: When Chinese Philosophy Meets American Power

Salvatore Babones, Foreign Affairs, June 22, 2017

  • When history is turned into scripture and men into deities, truth is the victim. The framers were giants, visionaries and polymaths. But they were also aristocrats, creatures of their time fearful of what they considered the excessive democracy taking hold in the states in the 1780s. They did not believe that poor men, or any women, let alone slaves, should have the vote. Many of their decisions, such as giving every state two senators regardless of population, were the product not of Olympian sagacity but of grubby power-struggles and compromises . . . .

The perils of constitution-worship

The Economist, September 23, 2010

  • But, as Abraham Lincoln noted, the Declaration could have established national independence without its second paragraph about the human rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal,’ ” Lincoln argued, “was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain.” As he saw it, the Founders, while constrained by the political realities of their time, set out a non-arbitrary, timeless truth “for future use.”
    America Isn’t a Normal Country

Michael Gerson, The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2017

  • Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States.

U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership

Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes, Jacob Poushter And Janell Fetterolf, Pew Research Center, June 26, 2017

Countries and Regions

  • Putin said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Wednesday that Russia is “witnessing a hike in activities by foreign intelligence agencies aimed against Russia and its allies.” He singled out cyberattacks as one of the ways other countries try to gain sensitive information about Russia.

Putin says foreign agencies attacking Russia

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, June 29, 2017

  • The first session of the Federation Council Commission on Countering Hostile Interference in the Affairs of Russia suggests that there has been a significant change in Moscow’s concerns. No longer is Western support for non-Russians the primary problem but rather Western backing for opposition movements and regionalism.

Moscow Sees West Behind Regionalist Threats to Russia’s Territorial Integrity

Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia – New Series, June 28, 2017

  • Russia’s meddling in global democracies is a deepening threat that requires a united response.

Tweeting, Not Leading, the Response to Russian Hacking

The New York Times, June 27, 2017

  • Watching four hours of Oliver Stone interviewing President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not a lesson in journalism. Mr. Stone is an inept interviewer * * * he has broadcast the conditions on which this kind of admiration rests. * * * Ignorance * * * A love of power and grandeur * * * Shared prejudice * * * An inability or an unwillingness to distinguish fact from fiction. * * * Moral neutrality. * * *

How Putin Seduced Oliver Stone – and Trump

Masha Gessen, The New York Times, June 25, 2017

  • Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found.

Under pressure, Western tech firms bow to Russian demands to share cyber secrets

Joel Schectman, Dustin Volz and Jack Stubbs, Reuters, June 23, 2017

  • There have been widespread calls to counter Russian propaganda but few actual efforts by state or multi-state governments or defense organizations and none larger than a handful or two of worker bees.

Our Information Warfare Against Russia Is Working

Joel Harding, To Inform is to Influence, June 23, 2017

  • If Putin wanted to sow chaos, he got his wish. But he isn’t a diabolical genius, and his intelligence operatives aren’t supermen. American incompetence is his greatest asset.

American Weakness and Incompetence Are Vladimir Putin’s Greatest Assets

David French, National Review, June 23, 2017

  • Controlling the access and distribution of information allows the Kremlin to dictate stories and facts to influence public opinion. Beyond overseeing which stories are released, the Kremlin will often “modify the narrative.” Releasing various, different stories with elements of truth increases the noise in the media environment. Thus, the audience faces not only an overwhelming amount of messages but also many different versions of the same story without knowing which one is correct.

Dictating the Narrative: State-Controlled Media in Russia

Anna Semler, American Security Project, June 22, 2017

  • If more people in Russia than in America decide to take the computer science exam in secondary school, it may be because Russian students are required to study the subject beginning at a much younger age. Russia’s Federal Educational Standards (FES) mandate that informatics be compulsory in middle school, with any school free to choose to include it in their high school curriculum at a basic or advanced level.

Why So Many Top Hackers Hail from Russia

Krebs on Security, June 2017

  • It was the inevitable result of the West’s decisive victory in the contest with the Soviet Union. In a multidimensional global rivalry—political, economic, cultural, technological, and military—the Soviet Union lost across the board.* * * Russia is living proof that hard power is brittle without the other dimensions of great-power status. However much Russia might insist on being acknowledged as an equal to the United States, the European Union, or even China, it is not, and it has no near- or medium-term prospect of becoming one.

Russia’s Perpetual Geopolitics: Putin Returns to the Historical Pattern

Stephen Kotkin, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2016

  • The roots of Russia’s hybrid methods go back to the Soviet era, although the label is more recent. “Active measures”, as hybrid was called back then – such as spreading disinformation and setting up front organisations in the West – was an integral part of Soviet foreign policy. Today, some of Russia’s tactics are surprisingly similar but the current information environment makes their use both more efficient and complex.

Hybrid influence – lessons from Finland

NATO Review Magazine, June 28, 2017

  1. CHINA
  • China’s rival to U.S. Cyber Command, the ambiguously named Strategic Support Force (SSF), is quietly growing at a time when the country’s sizable military is striving to excel in the digital domain.

How China’s cyber command is being built to supersede its U.S. military counterpart

Chris Bing, Cyberscoop, June 22, 2017

  • We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We show that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts, American Political Science Review, June 21, 2017

  • China’s state news agency Xinhua has released an animated music video celebrating the upcoming 20th anniversary of the British ceding control of Hong Kong to the mainland

Hong Kong State of Mind: Xinhua Raps Handover Anniversary

Kenrick Davis, Sixth Tone, June 27, 2017

  • Forensic software reveals how Kim Jong-un is frequently Photoshopped to “look a bit more handsome” than he is in real life. Photoshop is a critical part of North Korea’s propaganda machine. The brutal dictatorship, led by Kim Jong-un, would like us to believe a lot of things that just aren’t true.

Why Does North Korea Keep Photoshopping Kim Jong-un’s Ears?

Sarah Emerson, Motherboard, June 21, 2017

  • But as tensions between the US and North Korea rise, cybersecurity and foreign affairs analysts watching the Hermit Kingdom’s hackers say that it would be unwise to write off Kim Jong-un’s digital army as irrational actors . . . Instead, they warn that North Korea is using cyberattacks much as they’ve used the nuclear threat, an asymmetric lever that effectively holds far more powerful countries in check. Like the Kim regime as a whole, North Korea’s hackers are desperate, brazen, and at times incompetent—but also shrewdly logical in pursuing their goals.

North Korea’s Sloppy, Chaotic Cyberattacks Also Make Perfect Sense

Andy Greenberg, Wired, June 15, 2017

  • The surreptitious intrusion into Sony’s internal information network and subsequent public revelation of stolen information was a coercive, decisive, and nonviolent fait accompli. It presented not only Sony but the U.S. government with multiple types of direct threats, and forced both into a position that favored not attempting any meaningful retaliation.

Tactics of Strategic Competition: Gray Zones, Redlines, and Conflicts before War

Van Jackson, U.S. Naval War College Review, Summer 2017, Vol. 70, No.3

  • Many private donors also exploit the influence of social media in order to raise funds, and this provides a useful segue into some Saudis’ Salafi justifications for financing terror.

How Are Terrorist Organisations Funded?

Scott Chipolina, Quilliam, June 12, 2017 

  1. SYRIA
  • The US-led coalition, including the Kurdish armed units, lets militants of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) leave Raqqa instead of killing them, the commander of Russia’s force grouping in Syria, Sergey Surovikin, said on Saturday. Senior Kurdish officials have rejected the allegations as propaganda.

Russia upset with US-backed SDF operation in Raqqa, launches propaganda campaign

Wladimir van Wilgenburg, ARA News, June 18, 2017

  • An important part of the Islamic State’s meteoric rise to power in Syria and Iraq was due at least in part to its creative use of social media tools to distribute propaganda and recruit new members. * * * It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the group has issued an official ban on social media for all of its soldiers. * * * the group’s order to all of its soldiers stated: “effective from the date of this notification, using social networking sites is entirely and completely forbidden. Whoever violates this exposes himself to questioning and accountability.”

CTC Perspectives: The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban

Bryan Price and Muhammad al-Ubaydi, Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, June 21, 2017

  • . . . ISIL’s notion of a Caliphate is aligned with the concept of a community rather than that of a state and that ISIL’s strategic focus is on psychological control rather than territorial control.   After exploring ISIL’s success in building a digital caliphate based on the sociological concept of community, this paper presents recommendations for developing and promulgating alternative methods of community that will usurp the appeal of ISIL’s burgeoning digital caliphate. Finally, this paper concludes by discussing the implications of this research on a U.S. counter-ISIL digital messaging strategy.

Countering ISIL’s Digital Caliphate: An Alternative Model

Bradford Burris, Small Wars Journal, June 16, 2017


  • [The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs]’s mission is to “increase mutual understanding between the people [of the [United States] and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assists in the development of peaceful relations.” One way ECA meets its mission is by funding activities that encourage the involvement of American and international participants from traditionally underrepresented groups (such as racial and ethnic minorities) by hosting professional, academic, cultural, and athletic exchanges. ECA’s Office of Academic Programs is the primary sponsor of academic exchanges.

Audit of Department of State Grants and Cooperative Agreements Awarded to Kennesaw State University

Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of State, June 2017

  • . . . since 1992, Ukrainians have had the opportunity to participate in U.S. government programs, such as Fulbright academic exchanges, More than 1,000 Ukrainian students and scholars have done substantive research in the United States and have come back to Ukraine to implement best practices.

The United States must support Ukraine’s vibrant transformation

Marta Kolomayets and Greg Huger, The Hill, June 17, 2017

  • Jefferson’s decision to change the time of the meal to accommodate Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan has been seized on by both sides in the 21st-century debate over Islam more than 200 years later. Historians have cited the meal as the first time an iftar took place in the White House — and it has been referenced in recent White House celebrations of Ramadan as an embodiment of the Founding Father’s respect for religious freedom. Meanwhile, critics on the far right have taken issue with the characterization of Jefferson’s Dec. 9, 1805, dinner as an iftar.

President Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House

Amy B. Wang, The Washington Post, June 25, 2017

  • The challenges of budgets and bureaucracy remain, but it is time for the U.S. to recommit to diplomacy — cultural, commercial and educational.

It’s OK to disrupt diplomacy, but do it with wisdom

Curtis S. Chin, Japan Times, June 25, 2017

  • When the various roles that the arts and culture are taken more seriously in summits, G-20 meetings, policy discussions, and even international relations classrooms, we will undoubtedly discover new ways they can support economic growth, global education, health and human rights, and political thought, it addition to more ambitious goals like reducing global terrorism and combating climate change.

The Art of Foreign Policy: Culture Drives Foreign Affairs

Michelle, Bovee, Charged Affairs, June 19, 2017

  • I believe that a final, negotiated FY 2018 budget request for the State Department should include continued funding – if not a gradual increase – of what has been a relatively small amount of money allocated every year to the soft power of “cultural diplomacy.”Roughly defined as the use of an exchange of ideas, traditions, and values to strengthen relations and encourage engagement, cultural diplomacy is perhaps most easily seen in the use of music, arts, and sports to build cross-cultural understanding.

Why the State Department Should Fund Cultural Diplomacy

Curtis S. Chin, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, June 15, 2017

  • Nearly 1.2 million foreign students are living and studying at schools in the U.S., Homeland Security reported Friday, with the vast majority of those coming from Asia. * * * China dominates the program, with 362,368 students, trailed by India at 206,698.

Foreign student population in U.S. grows to 1.2 million

Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, June 23, 2017

  • The ability of the U.S. to attract bright minds from around the world has bolstered the country’s development since its inception and fuels the U.S. “melting pot” narrative. China is now the primary source of these foreign exchange students.

When Policy Meets Public Diplomacy: U.S. losing its edge in attracting international students

Alison Bartel, Take Five, May 30, 2017


This is a compilation of news, articles, essays, and reports on strategic communications, Public Diplomacy, public affairs, U.S. government international broadcasting, and information operations.  The editorial intent is to:

  • share with busy practitioners the academic and policy ferment in Public Diplomacy and related fields
  • from long speeches, testimonies, and articles, flag the portions that bear on Public Diplomacy
  • provide a window on armed forces thinking on the fields that neighbor Public Diplomacy such as military public affairs, information operations, inform-influence-engage, and cultural learning, and
  • introduce the long history of Public Diplomacy by citing some of the older books, articles, reports, and documents that are not available on the internet.

Public Diplomacy professionals always need a 360-degree view of how ideas are expressed, flow, and gain influence.  Many points of view citied here are contentious, partisan, and/or biased; inclusion does not imply endorsement.

Edited by

Donald M. Bishop, Bren Chair of Strategic Communications, Marine Corps University

Jeffery W. Taylor, University of Mary Washington, Assistant