Friday, July 13, 2018

PSYOP Paper That Talks!


Defense One ran article in June 2018 about a new procurement by USSOCOM. According to the http://bit.ly/2NQdvkb)) which described a high tech ‘paper’ that played a 30 second message.

article (which you can see at:

The prototype demonstrated at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (www.sofic.org) had a writable area between 4 and 6 square inches. SOCOM is looking for suppliers who can provide paper that can “be printable “in the field [to be] deployed or scattered across designated areas to broadcast information as well as provide feedback to assist in MISO planning and analysis.” The technology behind the talking paper is impressive and you can learn more at: http://bit.ly/2LevJd4

Way back in December 2014 none other than the New Yorker magazine thought: “Graphene may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered. But what’s it for? (see: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/material-question, which is also a photo source) If you are thinking of investing in graphene stocks, check out this May 2017 article: https://www.nanalyze.com/2017/05/graphene-stocks-update/, which of course may be out of date and is another photo source.

While advancing the technology behind the trusty leaflet should be applauded, I wonder just how useful this technology would be. In a previous posting I believe I mentioned the notion of using the same technology as today’s greeting cards – a cheaper, COTS alternative which would appear to accomplish the same objective – that is delivering sound to those who can presumably not read.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the technology works and that you can create a 30 second message on a paper that’s the thickness of 4 pages – so what!

1.     How much effort is required?
2.     Will the ‘field’ really be able to make use of the technology as easily as the classic Rizzo leaflet?
3.     Will it work?
a.     Will the target actually listen to it?
b.     Will it be credible?
c.      Can a one shot deal have any impact at all?
4.     How much will it cost?
5.     Would the money be better spent elsewhere – say on harnessing COTS or Printerest like social media?

I’ll leave the answers to your summer thinking. Have fun at the beach.

If you are going to the POVA Reunion next week in Cleveland – introduce yourself!

If you’re not and your PSYOP professional, you’re missing quite the opportunity.

Check out: http://www.usapova.com/upcoming-events/

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It may be a foreign language to you – but not to them!



One of my favorite jokes about foreign languages goes like this:

Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
A: Tri-lingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
A: Bi-lingual

Q. What do you call someone who speaks one language?
A: American

The PRC understands that to influence others you need to do so in their own language. While this may seem pretty simple, it’s not easy to do. The Economist magazine of June 16, 2018 ran an article “National shall preach Xi unto nation” (see: https://econ.st/2KdrUJ0, which is also the photo source).

The article recounts how the PRC “is spending billions on beefing up its foreign-language news media”. Meanwhile, last week I recounted how the Senate Armed Services Committee couldn’t understand why SOCOM’s humble Global Messaging Platform came under scrutiny. The meager millions spent on that program seem like chump change in comparison.

The article notes that the Voice of China is now broadcasting in 65 languages up about 50% from the 43 languages broadcasted a decade ago.

The China Global Television Network (CGTN) appears to be well sourced and ambitious. They’re targeting CNN and no doubt the BBC as well. The article noted that CGTN is planning on setting up a new broadcasting center in Chiswick, a mere 6.5 miles from London.

The mission of CGTN as given to them by Xi Jingping: “tell China stories well”.

It should be noted that this mission is also carried out by newspapers including the Hong Kong based China Daily. Print is matched to an online counterpart for example take, a look at: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/

Results seem to be mixed. It appears to be harder to get the “China story” across in ‘developed’ countries than elsewhere. According to the article, “A survey in 2016 of youth from 18 African countries found that, of those who had watched CGTN, 63% had liked the channel and only 14% had a negative view.”

The message is pretty clear, you need a ‘whole of government’ and a ‘whole lot of money’ if you want to play the global influence game.




Monday, June 18, 2018

Senate Committee Lacks Confidence in SOCOM Social Media Capabilities



The Senate Armed Services Committee has a lack of confidence in SOCOM’s ability to address the enemy in cyber space influence operations. The Committee’s Report to Accompany Senate Bill 2987 (all 654 pages_ can be found at: http://bit.ly/2I1lyWS). )

Buried on page 266 is sec.1033, Limitation on use of funds for United States Special Operations Command Global Messaging and Counter-Messaging platform. Key portions of this section are shown below:

“Specifically, the committee believes the MISO enterprise remains too focused on tactical activities using traditional media and has not evolved to adequately counter adversary messaging through social media and other modern forms of communication. The committee notes that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) ‘‘Web Ops’’ capability was established to counter online propaganda of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and is the predecessor to the proposed SOCOM GMCM platform. Despite the existence of a military information support military occupational specialty for decades, the MISO enterprise played only a minimal, supporting role in the activities of the CENTCOM Web Ops platform. The committee believes this situation is symptomatic of broader deficiencies in the MISO enterprise. Therefore, the recommended provision requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a review of the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities applicable to military information support capabilities with a goal of improving the capabilities of the MISO Enterprise to more effectively operate in the information environment against both state and non-state actors”.

Here's my assessment:

On a high level, there is quite a bit going on, much of it centered on the spectacular lack of success of US DOD influence (especially cyber influence) efforts. Recently the JCS elevated information to a joint function (see: https://www.rmda.army.mil/records-management/docs/SECDEF-Endorsement_Information_Joint%20Function_Clean.pdf) which has resulted in serious implications for several DOD communities such as Public Affairs, CyberCom and of course MISO.

In parallel with this movement are separate initiatives in each of the services to develop their own influence (MISO) capabilities.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has latched on to SOCOM who has the lead for MISO and would likely to be responsible this lack of success. The Committee wants to be sure that any further allocation of funds is warranted. Tagging this particular project is just one element of machinations going on at the highest levels.

There are several factors at play here.
1.     DOD MISO is quite diluted as it goes across the force.
2.     There are no visible results from any digital/cyber MISO efforts.
3.     The MISO force is not synergistic. The Army still has an artificial split between the AC and the RC even though doctrine flows from SWC. It’s sort of a doctrinal “Animal Farm: where the AC is more equal.
4.     Non-state actors in particular have been able to harness an asymmetrical advantage by using the Internet for recruiting, communications, etc. ISIS in particular.
5.     SOCOM has not done a very good job of shepherding the influence resource across the force.
6.     CyberComm, is the land of the geeks and is totally divorced from the influence force. In essence you have the campaign/message/theme people isolated from the digital delivery experts and also unable to direct the use of digital weaponry as an influence tool.
7.     Congress doesn’t seem to realize that the amount that they have allocated is not very much to accomplish the mission they have assigned.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It appears that the Senate wants to see a detailed review of what SOCOM is doing from a MISO perspective, how that relates to what the combatant commanders are doing and how it interfaces/impacts/relates to other government influence efforts, chiefly the Department of State. And, it wants this review before any more funds should be allocated to those efforts.

Let’s all stayed tuned and don’t be shy about contacting your Senator if you’re so inclined.

 Photo Source: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Need Propaganda on the Cheap? AI is the answer.


“Seeing is believing” is going the way of the dinosaur. The growth of technology to create or tamper with images has been nothing short of astounding. The accelerating pace of technology along with decreased costs have put image-faking capabilities in the hands of the general public.

An article in the May 26th Economist “Cinema, not verite” (see: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/05/26/a-faked-video-of-donald-trump-points-to-a-worrying-future, which is also a photo source) uses a fake video of Donald Trump to illustrate the point.

Today’s world thrives on communication – social media in particular. Propaganda is often crafted to appeal to people’s innate biases. Propaganda is constructed to appeal to what people want to hear because it confirms what they already believe.

By diligently using Artificial Intelligence and other automated tools not only can high quality fake images be created, but those images can be very broadly distributed in hopes of igniting even more viral distribution.

The Economist article concludes with “Technology could make the global village feel more like a fearful, distrusting swamp.

A complementary article was published by the Brookings Institute - The West is ill-prepared for AI-powered disinformation (see: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/05/25/the-west-is-ill-prepared-for-the-wave-of-deep-fakes-that-artificial-intelligence-could-unleash/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=63300653, which is another photo source).

This is a far more in depth article that addresses many aspects of the disinformation challenge to include AI, the legal environment and more. It also touches on “A growing cottage industry of search engine optimization (SEO) manipulation provides services to clients looking to rise in the Google rankings.” Which, while relates to the business of Google searches, is an intelligence indicator that the tools to manipulate how people look for and find information are also readily available.

The PSYOP Community needs to insure that our counter-propaganda toolbox is as rich.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Social Media Control: Digital Whack A Mole!


The on-line news service “The Hill” ran an article that indicated “ISIS Propaganda Find Fertile Ground on Google+ Platform” (see: http://thehill.com/policy/technology/388909-pro-isis-propaganda-finds-fertile-ground-on-google-plus-platform?userid=204552, which is also a photo source.).

The Article addressed how Google’s platform has been a home for ISIS propaganda while other channels have been shut down or at least reduced. This should not really come as much of a surprise to media watchers. Google + is sort of the ‘off Broadway’ of Social Media. Driven from the bright lights of FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter the bad guys had to go somewhere.

While Social Media in general is noisy and overcrowded, no one can argue that it reaches quite a large audience. Furthermore, at virtually no cost - - any type of social media exposure is a real price performer.

Terrorist groups like ISIS, don’t really need mass social markets. Rather than need a channel that can serve to attract some dedicated new followers and one that can be a quiet place for like-minded radicals to connect and perhaps further serve as a communications vehicle.

Once again, we confront the media or platform conundrum. Is Google merely a conduit of information placed there by anyone or do they have the social responsibility to act as an editor of prudence that removes the obvious threats and dangers.  

At the moment it would appear that the big guys such at Alphabet are too busy worrying about self-driving cars that cars that explode.

As always, reader comment invited.


Monday, April 30, 2018

China’s Military: A Very Successful Movie Producer

 
China News Magazine (May 2018) and their website (see: http://www.newschinamag.com/newschina/articleDetail.do?article_id=3440&section_id=4&magazine_id=29; which is also the photo source) ran a story entitled: “War Movies – Patriot Gains”, the subhead is “The success of china’s latest war movie, Operation Red Sea, is part of a new chapter in Chinese patriotic cinema, and reveals how China’s various military branches finance film.”

Movies are big business in China too the tune of $15.8 Billion in February – a record breaking performance even ahead off the best US monthly which the magazine reported as $13.95 Billion in 2011.

The PLA has been a big and successful backer of war movies having sponsored the current hit, Operation Red Sea (which also features the Chinese Navy), Wolf Warrior 2 (at left) last year which was SF themed and of course a PRC Top Gun – Sky Hunter.

Military produced films have ‘covered’ a number of conflicts (in Chinese terminology) such as the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), China’s Civil War (1945-59) and the Korean War (1950-53).

The settings have evolved along with the PRC’s needs and messages moving into more modern conflicts and showcasing the PRC’s military prowess.

Operation Red Sea is being lauded as the first of a new generation of Chinese War movies. Like their Western Counterparts, Chinese war movies did not appeal to the younger generation of moviegoers. This resulted in transferring responsibility to a new segment of the PRC government. A key element is to stimulate pride in the PRC military and China’s newly elevated international status.

Alas these things don’t happen in America. Hollywood is after box office, and while some moviemakers will tout their social progress philosophy or protest purposes ultimately the free film market is about box office and maybe a bit about “Oscar”.

What are the lessons to be learned for the PSYOP Community?

Actually those lessons would be more DOD focused to include working with filmmakers to insure realism and to do what can be done to influence a balanced perspective.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Creating Disinformation Is Easier Than You Think


Fake news is perhaps more common these days than ‘real news’. On April 24, 2018 Bloomberg Politics reported “G-7 Says Tech Firms Like FaceBook and Twitter Will be ‘Held to Account’. (see: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-24/tech-firms-like-facebook-twitter-to-be-held-to-account-by-g-7; which is also the photo source. I wondered just how hard it would be for two people to create their own disinformation (fake news).

As many of you know, I regularly participate in joint exercises as the IO SME and Role Player. In my most recent exercise I worked with a colleague to create two streams of disinformation.

At first I thought the idea of planning and executing a disinformation campaign would be pretty daunting. Frankly – it’s not.

Our targeting mission was pretty simple. It would be our job to confuse the friendly Public Affairs Team and Media Operations Center (MOC).

1. Pick The Media
Our first step was to pick our media. We decided to concentrate on a single media so that we could concentrate our efforts. Fortunately the exercise takes place in a closed, off the net, isolated system so we were not unduly concerned with leakage.

2. Adopt A Role
Next we adopted a fictional persona. Just as if we were in a play we did a mini-character analysis of our new identity and developed what we believed would be the key messages they would want to transmit.

3. Build A Couple of Story Lines
Once we knew who we were portraying and what we wanted to say we created a couple of story lines and drafted messages.

4. MESL Injection
Our finally step was to create a time to inject each message. Our chosen medium was a Tweeter Take Off - this meant we had to limit what we could say to remain inside the character limit.

The end result was that the students spotted one of our characters and crafted some very responsive counter-propaganda messages. The other character slipped through the cracks and was never picked up.

The key to success was a combination of creativity and sensitivity to the situation so that your disinformation campaign is credible and blends in with the rest of the journalistic landscape.