Intelligence Community Expecting More Russian Interference This Election Cycle
The United States’ intelligence community is expecting active Russian disinformation efforts to influence the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to analysis by the RAND Corporation.
Among the corporation’s key findings was that technological innovation has made widespread propaganda efforts by Russia easier to conduct than previous disinformation campaigns by the Soviets during the Cold War, according to the report. These efforts are designed to “elicit strong reactions” that “drive people to extreme positions,” thereby lowering the chances that a consensus will be reached on election night.
Although Russia’s attempts at subverting American democracy were well-documented following the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Justice indicted the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency for election interference dating back to 2014, according to the report.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a redacted report detailing Russia’s “active measures” campaign that sought to influence the 2016 election.
“Our adversaries will persist in their efforts to undermine our shared democratic values,” the Senate report concludes. “In order to ensure that our democracy endures, it is imperative that we recognize the threat and make the investments necessary to withstand the next attack.”
Amid other findings, the RAND Corporation’s report noted studies that examined Russian influence on U.S. elections focused on different units of analysis. While some studies were mainly concerned with the propaganda itself, others examined how it gets disseminated through information networks or how to properly shield consumers from it.
The RAND Corporation’s recommendations on combating foreign influence were to adopt a “holistic” approach to anticipate which groups of Americans are the likeliest targets, and to implement “evidence-based preventive practices” to stifle propaganda.
The report states the intellectual basis of Russia’s efforts is rooted in “reflexive control theory.” This theory maintains “control” can be asserted over populations by conveying information that leads them to some predetermined decision.
Reflexive control theory was developed by Vladimir Lefebvre and others and first appeared in Soviet military literature in the 1960s, according to the report. Reflexive control differs from “game theory” in that it operates from the basis individuals do not act rationally, and instead act “according to their image of the world and their image of their adversary’s image of the world.”
The structure of reflexive control theory “implies that a person’s decisions depend on what is socially desirable,” and that their perception can be manipulated when outside parties disseminate false content, eliciting a desired reaction.
“If someone is ‘one of them’ and if ‘they’ are a monolithic group easily summarized by one characteristic, then perceptions are more easily manipulated and reinforced,” the text of the RAND report read. “Thus, we hypothesize that reflexive control in practice is a priming technique that encourages people to self-identify with a particular group and to simplify the characterization of that group as homogenous and ultimately in conflict with another group.”
In The News
NEW YORK - The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America kicked off veteran education week this morning, continuing a six-week campaign to highlight the priority issues of its members. Over the course of this week, IAVA is highlighting its advocacy efforts to expand and protect veteran... Read More
WASHINGTON – As they did last year, the New Democrat Coalition on Thursday endorsed the reintroduced H.R. 1, the For the People Act. H.R. 1 is a sweeping campaign finance and election reform bill that will make it easier for Americans to vote, end the dominance of money... Read More
WASHINGTON – This week, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Mark Warner, D-Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., introduced the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act. The legislation requires the U.S.... Read More
The pandemic has made clear that broadband access goes hand-in-hand with economic opportunity, exposing the inequities and lack of resources for black-owned businesses across the country, according to Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission. Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, black business... Read More
WASHINGTON - There's no question that the once-every-10-year process of redistricting is off to a slow start. Though the U.S. Census Bureau ended its collection of data for the 2020 census on Oct. 15, 2020, it missed the December statutory deadline for the delivery of apportionment... Read More
Cryptocurrencies have the potential to decentralize systems of commerce across the world, leading to vast peer-to-peer markets absent of manipulation. In order for this to come to fruition, Sheila Warren, head of data, blockchain and digital assets and member of the executive committee at the World... Read More