‘War of weaponized influence’: US spends millions on tools to find


NS US government It’s building expensive new tools to fight enemies that use tweets and memes instead of bullets and bombs.

Instead of Afghanistan’s deserts and mountains, the battlefield is on tech platforms like Twitter. Ministry of DefenseAmerica’s research and development arm says America is fighting a “war of asymmetrical, sustained, weaponized narratives of influence.”

NS Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency He said he plans to spend $59.5 million on researchers over the next four years who build algorithms for researchers and collect content, including tweets, memes, political ads and blog posts. state‘s “Influencing Campaign Awareness and Awareness” (INCAS) program.

INCAS program manager Brian Kettler He said the goal was to give the government tools to use to provide “early warning” of outside influence. he He said the tools could also be useful for agencies working to help the US spread their narrative around the world and stop content from going viral online.

For example, researchers at cybersecurity firm Mandiant said last month that they discovered a pro-China digital influence campaign designed to fuel Asian-Americans’ anger against racial injustice within the United States and change the narrative around COVID-19 accusation.

The Mandiant team said it used at least 30 social media platforms in the pro-China operation, as well as dozens of websites in languages ​​such as Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

Mandiant Vice President John Hultquist said: DARPA He said it was wise to continue the program to combat foreign influence, but it was almost too late for solutions as China took action to push protesters onto the streets.

“I think this is a big problem the US has to deal with, so I think trying to develop such a capability is definitely the right thing to do,” said Mr Hultquist. “It’s just growing.”

Details on who will be using the tools and how they will be used are not yet known because the tools are not yet available. DARPA He said the INCAS program started in August. Mr. Kettler stressed DARPA It is responsible for creating the tools and techniques, not deciding how to use them. US government.

researchers working for DARPA divided into five teams. DARPA documents. A team will collect digital content from strangers, such as tweets and memes.

The two teams will take the content and develop algorithms to rank the content for indicators of foreign influence and “psychographic attributes” of the intended audience, including sacred values ​​and worldviews such as politics and religion.

Another team will take the algorithms and data to build a model to understand foreign influence campaigns and help analysts who will use the tools make sure the algorithms are catching a specific enemy like China or Russia and not a random person. online. This team will provide “human machine interfaces” that analysts will use to interact with the tools of the INCAS program.

A final team will take and test what others have come up with, including working with government agencies on real-world scenarios.

DARPA he is not particularly outspoken about the type of foreign influence attack he wants to prevent. Its documents mention the “China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” an infrastructure financing effort run by the Chinese communists, as part of a scenario that will be examined to measure the program’s function.

DARPA The documents also point to enemies seeking to undermine foreign people’s attitudes about American military bases in their home countries. But state‘s greatest fear is that an enemy will use foreign influence to achieve something the United States does not take into account.

“A few people, quite a lot of people now, are worried about election security because we’ve seen some examples of this being relevant, but I want to spread the net much wider and say, ‘Can we see hostile information campaigns around? various subjects?’” Mr. Kettler said. “What haven’t we thought of?”

Duration DARPA documents and Mr. Kettler Emphasizing that the tools are focused on detection, the University of Illinois researchers participating in the program say their work will be “the first step towards the development of effective countermeasures” against impact operations.

According to Mr Trump, such countermeasures could include ways to prevent an adversary’s messages from sticking to people’s minds or that messages go viral. Kettler, who said that her the program was not developing a system for how countermeasures could be developed.

The University of Illinois said it received $5.8 million from the US last month. DARPA for the INCAS program. DARPA He said the Illinois researchers will work with their colleagues at the University of Southern California to develop ways to separate audiences based on psychographic characteristics.

“People create divisive narratives,” said Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor at the University of Illinois. DARPA, in a statement last month. “It’s polarizing, radicalizing, whatever… but we don’t understand the impact of this weapon on the population the way we understand the impact of a bomb or a lightning strike.”

Researchers’ focus on psychographic attributes aims to identify which groups of people are sensitive to foreign messages. US governmentor mobilize real-world actions such as protests.

While marketers are concerned with an individual’s personality traits, which determine whether a person is likely to purchase a product, DARPA It deals with the emotional responses of groups to content based on their values ​​and worldviews stemming from religious or political beliefs. DARPA presentation slides and an extensive agency announcement, both from October 2020.

DARPA‘s presentation slides showed marketers using beauty ads to sell makeup differently from introverts and extroverts.

Against this, DARPA‘s new approach to dividing people is depicted in a graphic that shows the risk of an audience emotional reaction to a problem such as “gun/gun control”, “climate change”, “military gays” and “migration”, among other things.

Mr. Kettler said DARPA wanted to avoid copying the tools the private sector created for marketing, and DARPA It aims to make future psychographic algorithms available for widespread use.

“Various algorithms for analyzing, looking at aggregated social media data and saying ‘it looks like these psychographic attributes are involved’ can be incorporated into a variety of different types and sorts of things we hope to make available. Various tools from different business clients, academic researchers, etc. can benefit,” he said. Kettler said.

DARPA It relies on a number of companies, institutions, and labs to develop stateabilities. In addition to researchers from the Universities of Illinois and Southern California, other research teams involved include representatives from Smart Information Flow Technologies, Protagonist Technology, Uncharted Software, the University of Maryland Applied Research Lab for Intelligence and Security, and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs. Mr. Kettler joined DARPA From Lockheed Martin in 2019.

Government agencies that can use these tools have not yet been selected and are expected to emerge as the program progresses. Mr. Kettler said it is not singular for vehicles Ministry of Defense, aspect he that “the whole government” is concerned about foreign influence, and he He launched the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as particularly focused on the issue.

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