Warring songs: information operations in the digital age


This report from the UK think tank Demos examines why the widely held focus on ‘fake news’ is overblown.

From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the spread on social media of anti-Rohingya content in Myanmar and the interference with elections the world over, the past decade has seen democracies around the world become the target of a new kind of information operations. In light especially of the upcoming European Elections, increased understanding and action is urgent. So far, governments have frequently failed to prepare for, recognise or respond to these operations effectively. This report aims to change that.

Warring Songs: Information Operations in the Digital Age finds that the widely held focus on ‘fake news’ is overblown. Data analysis of content targeting Germany, Italy and France found the news stories used to be overwhelmingly from reputable sources. Information operations frequently involve tactics not easily fact-checked: the selective amplification of reputable, mainstream media stories to fit an agenda, harassment, abuse, emotional manipulation and poisoning of channels of communication. While our previous report examining the Internet Research Agency’s efforts in the United Kingdom found that exploiting division after Islamic terrorism proved the central part of Russia’s strategy, these new case studies paint a more mixed picture. However, opposition to migrants and amplifying of stories related to volume of migrants and migrants failing to integrate is present across all the data. This is a phenomenon which has been previously seen in cases of information operations and misinformation in Europe, including in Italy and Germany.

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