Maneuver and Manipulation: On the Military Strategy of Online Information Warfare



Ongoing discussion around the Russian development of hybrid warfare and the revelations about meddling in the 2016 United States Presidential election have focused the public’s attention on the threats posed by coordinated campaigns of propaganda and disinformation. These recent events have also raised concerns around the broader challenge posed by the emergence of a “post-fact society,” the notion that the weakening ability for civil society and the public to analyze truth and falsity is creating a threat to the health and sustainability of democratic institutions. Technology and the Internet, in particular, play a key role in shaping the flow of information through society. Not surprisingly, the role of these systems in enabling new types of information warfare has figured prominently in the discussion as policymakers and scholars begin to develop their thinking about the appropriate response to these issues. Platforms such as Facebook and Google have been seen as having had a significant role in facilitating Russian propaganda efforts, incentivizing the distribution of false information, and encouraging the creation of extremist “filter bubbles.” As the defense community develops its approach to countering present-day online propaganda and disinformation techniques, it will need to place concerns around immediate threats into a broader understanding of the nature of the challenge. In short, the defense community will require an articulation of a unified strategic concept. This monograph offers an initial sketch of such a concept, proposing one approach to characterizing the strategic situation in the current information space and, based on that, some conjectures about the effective conduct of online information warfare.       Purchase this volume