4 new tactics, terms in online manipulation campaigns – report

Rappler.com
4 new tactics, terms in online manipulation campaigns – report
According to the researchers, the 4 techniques are a form of a broader online manipulation strategy called 'source hacking'

MANILA, Philippines – As technology and users evolve, so have the terminologies used to describe and define the digital spaces we occupy and phenomenon we observe.

A recent report published under Data & Society’s Media Manipulation research initiative by Joan Donovan and Brian Friedberg introduce 4 new tactics and terminologies used in online manipulation campaigns.

According to the researchers, the 4 techniques are a form of a broader online manipulation strategy called “source hacking.” Source hacking is defined as “a set of techniques for hiding the sources of problematic information in order to permit its circulation in mainstream media.” The strategy is employed in order to propagate false information by way of concealing the source.

The techniques and their definitions are as follows:

  1. Viral sloganeering – A process of crafting divisive cultural or political messages in the form of short slogans and propagating these (both online and offline) in an effort to influence viewers, force media coverage, and provoke institutional responses.
  2. Leak forgery – A process of forging documents that are then released by manipulators as apparent leaks from their political targets.
  3. Evidence collages – Image files featuring a series of screenshots and text that arrange evidence of a particular event or activity.
  4. Keyword squatting – A technique of creating social media accounts or content associated with specific terms to capture and control future search traffic.

The report says these techniques complement each other and can be used simultaneously. What then can we do to combat these techniques?

The authors offer these recommendations to journalists: “We advise journalists to seek out an abundance of corroborating evidence when reporting on the actions of social media accounts, and whenever possible, verify the identity of account holders. We suggest that newsrooms invest more resources in information security, including creating a position or desk to vet chains of evidence through analysis and verification of metadata for evidence of data craft.”

Social media platforms also bear responsibility, according to the authors. “Platform companies must label manipulation campaigns when they are identified and provide easier access to metadata associated with accounts,” they said.

Innovations in the digital media space are being tracked by researchers and practitioners. In the 2019 Philippine mid-term elections, researchers were also able to identify new tactics used by peddlers of disinformation and propaganda. (READ: IN-DEPTH Disinformation campaigns: Thirst traps and ‘hugot’ in 2019 Philippine elections) – Rappler.com

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