Understanding Disinformation Operations in the 21st Century

Defending Democracies: Combating Foreign Election Interference in a Digital Age (Duncan B. Hollis & Jens David Ohlin, eds., OUP), 2021, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2021

See all articles by Steven J. Barela

Steven J. Barela

University of Geneva - GSI, Faculty of Law

Jerome Duberry

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; University of Geneva - Global Studies Institute

Date Written: December 29, 2020

Abstract

Remarkable developments in digital technologies have provided the conditions for a dramatic rise in State-sponsored disinformation operations crossing international borders. Spreading 'dezinformatsiya' has a long history, but today it is done with a volume and accuracy that has left the targeted societies deeply destabilized as facts and events become sharply contested among citizens. This chapter is a descriptive work illustrating the essential components of this activity and draws three important conclusions. First, because disinformation aims to twist the truth in subtle ways when key facts remain secret and unavailable, exposing an operation becomes a tedious and difficult task. Second, the new digital world has opened the door to omnipresent operations that occur below the threshold of armed conflict and are accelerated exponentially by big data warehousing and algorithms that allow individualized targeting during an election cycle. Third, when disinformation operations disrupt the flow of information during a political campaign, the candidates involved and the process itself emerge with a dangerously eroded legitimacy. With a view to filling in critical missing data, the chapter ends with a clarion call to allow access for social scientists to study in detail what is happening in the opaque public square of online social media where ever more political understanding is being fashioned.

Keywords: disinfo-ops, disinformation, big data, micro-targeting, legitimacy, data access

Suggested Citation

Barela, Steven J. and Duberry, Jerome, Understanding Disinformation Operations in the 21st Century (December 29, 2020). Defending Democracies: Combating Foreign Election Interference in a Digital Age (Duncan B. Hollis & Jens David Ohlin, eds., OUP), 2021, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3757022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3757022

Steven J. Barela (Contact Author)

University of Geneva - GSI, Faculty of Law ( email )

Switzerland

Jerome Duberry

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies ( email )

Case postale 136
Geneva, 1211
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.graduateinstitute.ch

University of Geneva - Global Studies Institute ( email )

Sciences II
30, Quai Ernest-Ansermet
Geneva, GA CH - 1211
Switzerland

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
101
Abstract Views
519
rank
326,693
PlumX Metrics