China · Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

New RAND Research:  Countering Russian Social Media Influence

I found the report good, but not very good. 

The report is written in a “little map, big hand” fashion.  The recommendations are general, so vague as to not have substance, and not really useful.  Of note, the onus is placed on Social Media corporations to “inform key audiences”. Hopefully, that includes educating users as to Russian (and Chinese) propaganda, disinformation, and fake news efforts, methodologies, and examples. 

The most aggressive recommendation?  Besides diplomatic efforts to discourage Russian aggression, “Deter or curtail activities of known Russian proxies.” To do that effectively probably requires an update to the FARA, not covered in the report, and will require a major legislative action.

It does, however, recommend a public-private partnership, but the details were vague and not encouraging. 

Totally outside the scope of this study, most likely, is the recognition that:

  • There is no appointed Director of the Global Engagement Center, only an acting director, Daniel Kimmage.
  • There is no Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The acting is Heather Nauert, who was just nominated to be US Ambassador to the UN.
  • There is no Deputy Director of National Security for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House,

…so there is no top cover, no national-level synchronization, coordination within the US Strategic Communications community and not with overseas counterparts. 

As a result, the GEC may “take charge” of the overall effort but will lack the horsepower to ram through any powerful initiatives, will be strained to push through legislation in Congress, it will be difficult to get Department of Justice cooperation in new initiatives, it will be a leap to get other parts of the Strategic Communications community and other parts of the US Government to cooperate, allocate scarce resources, or otherwise do anything not already being done. 

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Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Todd C. Helmus, Andrew Radin, Elina Treyger

The U.S. intelligence community has found that the Russian government is directing disinformation campaigns through the open and accessible platforms of social media. The Russian “disinformation chain” that directs these campaigns starts from the very top—from Russian leadership, to Russian organs and proxies, through amplification channels such as social media platforms, and finally to U.S. media consumers. This RAND report draws on expert recommendations from academia, think tanks, and the private sector to formulate specific and actionable approaches for countering Russian social media influence. This report is meant to educate and inform U.S. government officials considering policies for combating Russian disinformation; social media companies undertaking efforts to reduce the spread of disinformation on their platforms; NGOs, think tanks, and academics developing new approaches to address the threat of disinformation; and the American public.

Please send comments about the study to:
Sally Sleeper


Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program, RAND Arroyo Center
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