Deception and the Strategy of Influence

by   Brian B., et al.

Organizations have long used deception as a means to exert influence in pursuit of their agendas. In particular, information operations such as propaganda distribution, support of antigovernment protest, and revelation of politically and socially damaging secrets were abundant during World War II and the Cold War. A key component of each of these efforts is deceiving the targets by obscuring intent and identity. Information from a trusted source is more influential than information from an adversary and therefore more likely to sway opinions. The ubiquitous adoption of social media, characterized by user-generated and peer disseminated content, has notably increased the frequency, scale, and efficacy of influence operations worldwide. In this article, we explore how methods of deception including audience building, media hijacking, and community subversion inform the techniques and tradecraft of today's influence operators. We then discuss how a properly equipped and informed public can diagnose and counter malign influence operations.



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