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Understanding the Structure and Dynamics of Disinformation in the Online Information Ecosystem

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Technical Report,01 Jul 2017,31 Jan 2018

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University of Washington Seattle United States

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Using a mixed-method approach to the study of big social data, we examined online disinformation and other information operations in two contexts 1 within the conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria and 2 within the politicized discourse about BlackLivesMatter in the U.S. In the first context, we found that the Russian-government media apparatus is integrated into the alternative media ecosystem that functioned to support Russias political and military goals in Syria. We also noted that information operations connected to Russia and other state and non-state actors were intermingled with more organic online political activists suggesting a strategy of targeting, infiltrating, and shaping online activism towards their strategic goals. In the second context, we again found that Russian information operations targeted political activist groups on both the political right and left of the BlackLivesMatter conversation in 2016 by impersonating Americans. Reflecting a possible strategy of amplifying discord, Russian agents enacted caricatures of American citizens and participated in the BlackLivesMatter Twitter conversation, including through the sharing of incendiary content.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Information Science

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