Recent events have demonstrated that targeted disinformation campaigns can have consequences that impact the lives and safety of information consumers. On social media platforms and in messaging apps, disinformation spread like a virus, infecting information consumers with contempt for democratic norms and intolerance of the views and actions of others. These events have highlighted the deep political and social divisions within the United States. Disinformation helped to ignite long-simmering anger, frustration, and resentment, resulting, at times, in acts of violence and other unlawful behavior.
DHS Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program Report: Combatting Targeted Disinformation Campaigns A Whole-of-Society Issue October 2019
In today’s information environment, the way consumers view facts, define truth, and categorize various types of information does not adhere to traditional rules. The shift from print sources of information to online sources and the rise of social media have had a profound impact on how consumers access, process, and share information. These changes have made it easier for threat actors to spread disinformation and exploit the modern information environment, posing a significant threat to democratic societies. Accordingly, disinformation campaigns should be viewed as a whole-of-society problem requiring action by government stakeholders, commercial entities, media organizations, and other segments of civil society.
Department of Justice Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation-a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton. The IRA’s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.