Posts tagged cyberwar

Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponised the web

botnet, russia, estonia, cyberwar, information-warfare, Rastorguev, infrastructure, 2007, 2017, Gera

Once there was a fox that wanted to eat a turtle, but whenever he tried to, it withdrew into its shell. He bit it and he shook it, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. One day he had an idea: he made the turtle an offer to buy its shell. But the turtle was clever and knew it would be eaten without this protection, so it refused. Time passed, until one day there appeared a television hanging in a tree, displaying images of flocks of happy, naked turtles – flying! The turtle was amazed. Oh! They can fly! But wouldn’t it be dangerous to give up your shell? Hark, the voice on television was announcing that the fox had become a vegetarian. “If I could only take off my shell, my life would be so much easier,” thought the turtle. “If the turtle would only give up its shell, it would be so much easier to eat,” thought the fox – and paid for more broadcasts advertising flying turtles. One morning, when the sky seemed bigger and brighter than usual, the turtle removed its shell. What it fatally failed to understand was that the aim of information warfare is to induce an adversary to let down its guard. (In 1998, Sergei P Rastorguev, a Russian military analyst, published Philosophy of Information Warfare, which included a lengthy version of this anecdote)


What makes online content viral?

information operations, io, infowar, ShadowBrokers, guccifer2, cyberwar


A paper on viral content. Information warfare is about dissemination of narratives and information. I think studying how those pieces of information are diffused to a wider audience is probably worth understanding.

Why are certain pieces of online content (e.g., advertisements, videos, news articles) more viral than others? This article takes a psychological approach to understanding diffusion. Using a unique data set of all the New York Times articles published over a three-month period, the authors examine how emotion shapes virality. The results indicate that positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone. Virality is partially driven by physiological arousal. Content that evokes high-arousal positive (awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral. Content that evokes low-arousal, or deactivating, emotions (e.g., sadness) is less viral. These results hold even when the authors control for how surprising, interesting, or practically useful content is (all of which are positively linked to virality), as well as external drivers of attention (e.g., how prominently content was featured). Experimental results further demonstrate the causal impact of specific emotion on transmission and illustrate that it is driven by the level of activation induced. Taken together, these findings shed light on why people share content and how to design more effective viral marketing campaigns.

As always, page views is king, so being able to force that huge firehose of clicks from a mainstream media site is way better than using a lower tier journal. The trick is really about climbing the ladder of media hierarchy. Turning low level tweets into blog posts, into gizmodo coverage, to WIRED, to NYT.

It’s well know that high valence content is central to high interaction, but here they show that it isn’t the only factor. Generating anger is extremely effective, so is making content surprising or interesting. This is what the ShadowBrokers are trying to do. And Guccifer2.

I wonder if they have studying how to make content more effective for information warfare, or just focussed on creating the “correct spin.”


a related paper to consider as a followup “the structure of virality”:

What makes online content viral?