Thursday, June 01, 2017

Conducting Psywar with a Bot Army - II

As discussed in my previous post, a bot army can be used to conduct psywar campaign on social media like Twitter/Instagram/Facebook etc..., however the operation of this bot army is constrained by an availability of resources. These constraints presage a peculiar pattern of deployment of the bot armies and in a weird way set the tempo for the psywar.

In this post I explore ways in which a bot army can be deployed to conduct a psywar on Twitter. As most of you know Twitter is where all journalists in the world hang out. All news first spreads via Twitter. If you want to dominate a news cycle, you have to get it at the source on Twitter itself. As Twitter offers cross posting of information on other media like Facebook, Instagram, etc... if you seize the high ground on Twitter you can most likely hold large swathes of Facebook, Instagram, Periscope etc... The dominance you achieve will be temporary as the bots will be exposed in the process of conducting the attacks. Once exposed you will not be able to reuse the bot army immediately. This will introduce a pause in your operations, a pause that will naturally leave an opening to your opponents to regroup and regain lost ground.

As with any military campaign, this kind of psywar campaign is best timed to coincide with some event that will likely expose you to unmitigated risks. So for example, if a certain person is likely to testify before a judge or a parliamentary investigation committee and say things that are very inimical to you, then you might think that deploying a bot assault on twitter is a good way to take the edge off the impact. 

As part of a softening up phase, the bot army could be deployed to strike at countervailing sources of information. Either information could be released via the bots that seeks to undermine the credibility of countervailing sources or access to these sources could be undermined by direct "bombing" their timeline with tweets containing contrarian information. By sowing doubt about the value of information from countervailing sources, the bot army would weaken opposition to the message it is seeking to release. Another possible variant of the softening up strategy would be if the bot army releases information that tangentially supports the message it is attempting to disseminate. A softer toned down version of a particular message carefully worded to avoid raising people's eyebrows might prove effective in creating a fertile ground for a much harsher and pin-point message at a later date. Once the softening up is done, the bot army that carried out the softening up is compromised and it will have to be at  least temporarily retired.

The next assault will likely be on a major news source, it is likely this will be a distraction or a feint of some kind. I call this the disorientation phase of the campaign. A view that is seemingly opposed to the bot army's own message is thrown around to disorient the target audience. The target audience will be unable to discern what the truth of the matter is and thus they will be open to the idea that the opposite of the message is actually true. Again the bot army used for this disorientation phase will have to be retired at least temporarily.

The last phase of the assault will likely be a saturation bombardment phase. during this phase the resource consumption will be maximum as a number of bot armies will have to be serially deployed to weak points (influencers who have been compromised or sufficiently disoriented)  in the target audience. The aim of this effort will be to completely saturate the information sphere with views that are aligned with the core message that is sent out via the bots. I anticipate that half the total strength of bot armies available will be used (the other half will be held in reserve).  This last phase will attempt to influence neutral opinion polling and increase the number of people that support your point of view.

Obviously in our present situation, if the bot army can use such a simple approach to reduce the negative fallout of next weeks Comey testimony before the intelligence committee on any poll numbers, then I imagine the Trump Team's "War Room" can call it a success. It is unfortunate that they will not see the cost of such a success, most of them will be happily counting  the dollars and BTC in their wallets - little realizing that the country is left in a very vulnerable place.


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