Speaker: Carley, K. (Carnegie Mellon University)
Date: 12 June 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Kathleen Carley (Carnegie Mellon University) as a part of its SMA DHS Speaker Series. Dr. Carley first defined and characterized social cyber-security. She then stated that social media is about networks and identified three influential groups that interact with users within these networks: 1) echochambers (a toxic group of people connected to each other that share the same ideas), 2) superspreaders (individuals that spread information and alert people of changes), and 3) superfriends (individuals that engage in dialogue to change others’ beliefs and get them to act). Dr. Carley proceeded to discuss the four D’s of traditional information warfare (dismiss, distort, dismay, and distract) and present her key findings regarding technology exploitation, social cognitive manipulation, and more general manipulation. She stated that maneuvers are often carried out by using images (particularly memes) and provided an example from a Russian countercampaign. Dr. Carley then spoke about how bots build groups (i.e. construct groups from scratch or create the appearance of groups when they may not actually exist) and nuke groups (destroy existing groups). The exact number of bots on social media is unknown, and they are not uniformly spread out. Bots can also create echochambers on their own, which creates the false perception that a particular opinion is shared by a large group of people. Furthermore, Dr. Carley explained that Russian bots and users have joined both sides of an argument in the past in order to further polarize the groups, anger both sides, and increase the divide between them. She then identified the key Russian information campaign lines of effort: 1) present Russian strength/unity, 2) weaken the EU and NATO, 3) polarize American society, and 4) isolate Israel. To conclude, Dr. Carley identified a series of challenges that experts within the field of social cyber-security currently face.