Todd C. Helmus

Todd C. Helmus
Senior Behavioral Scientist; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Wayne State University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Overview

Todd Helmus is a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and a nationally recognized expert on disinformation and violent extremism. He specializes in the use of data and evidence-based strategies to understand and counter disinformation and extremism. He has studied the disinformation threat posed by deepfakes, Russian-led propaganda campaigns targeting the United States and Europe, and the use of social media by violent extremist groups. He has also led research on the effectiveness of online interventions to prevent radicalization. 

In addition to his research, Helmus is a frequent speaker at security conferences. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security and has served as a deployed analyst to U.S. military commands in Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has been featured in various media outlets including the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, Harpers Magazine, Forbes and MSNBC.   

Helmus holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

Selected Publications

Helmus, Todd C., James V. Marrone, Marek N. Posard, and Danielle Schlang, Russian Propaganda Hits Its Mark: Experimentally Testing the Impact of Russian Propaganda and Counter-Interventions, RAND Corporation (RR-A704-3), 2020

Helmus, Todd C., Artificial Intelligence, Deepfakes, and Disinformation: A Primer, RAND Corporation (PE-A1043-1), 2022

Helmus, Todd C., Marta Kepe, A Compendium of Recommendations for Countering Russian and Other State-Sponsored Propaganda, RAND Corporation (RR-A894-1), 2021

Helmus, Todd C., Hannah Jane Byrne, and King Mallory, Countering Violent Extremism in the U.S. Military, RAND Corporation (RR-A1226-1), 2021

Todd C. Helmus, Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Andrew Radin, Madeline Magnuson, Joshua Mendelsohn, William Marcellino, Andriy Bega, Zev Winkelman, Russian Social Media Influence: Understanding Russian Propaganda in Eastern Europe, RAND (RR-2237), 2018

Helmus, Todd C., S. Rebecca Zimmerman, Marek N. Posard, Jasmine L. Wheeler, Cordaye Ogletree, Quinton Stroud, and Margaret C. Harrell, Life as a Private: A Study of the Motivations and Experiences of Junior Enlisted Personnel in the U.S. Army, RAND Corporation (RR-2252-A), 2018

Helmus, Todd C., Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Empowering ISIS Opponents on Twitter, RAND Corporation (PE-227-RC), 2017

Todd C. Helmus, Christopher Paul, Russell W. Glenn, Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation, RAND (MG-607), 2007

Honors & Awards

  • Gold Merit Award (2010), RAND
  • Bronze Merit Award (2021), RAND
  • Silver Merit Award (2022), RAND

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Bloomberg TV; Gray DC; Here and There, Santa Fe Public Radio; MSNBC; Voice of America; WUSA-DC

Commentary

  • Information Operations

    Keeping Russians Informed About Ukraine Could Help End This War

    Russia has taken increasingly aggressive actions to restrict access of information about the war in Ukraine. Ensuring that the Russian people know the truth about what their government is doing in Ukraine could bring this war to an end soon rather than later.

    Mar 14, 2022

    United Press International

  • Violent Extremism

    Help, Not Just Hunt, Violent Extremists in the Military

    The Pentagon is working to rid itself of violent extremist members. In addition to strengthening the chain of command to detect and remove extremist members from its ranks, the military could also empower military family members to intervene.

    Aug 5, 2021

    RealClearDefense

  • Russia

    Summit a Chance to Clarify U.S.-Russia Relations: RAND Call With Experts

    RAND experts discuss possible topics of conversation and potential takeaways from the upcoming summit between the United States and Russia. The summit will be a chance to rebuild and review the countries' fraught relationship.

    Jun 10, 2021

  • Military Doctrine

    The Link Between Extremism and Military Functioning

    U.S. Department of Defense policy prohibits service members from actively participating in extremist activities. Broadening the policy to include passive forms of participation could introduce two challenges.

    May 20, 2021

    Military Times

  • Violent Extremism

    Human Intelligence: The Key to Ferreting Out Extremism in the Ranks

    The U.S. military is fighting extremism—including white supremacists and violent anti-government radicals—in its own ranks. De-radicalized former extremists can provide crucial first-hand intelligence on extremist groups' recruiting tactics.

    Mar 18, 2021

    Defense One

  • Counterterrorism

    Are Counter Violent Extremism Interventions Effective?

    Government efforts to counter the propaganda and radicalization that lead to violent extremism are becoming more common around the world, but there's little research on whether such programs work. It is critical to conduct more research to tease out which programs are most effective.

    Sep 11, 2020

    The RAND Blog

  • Information Operations

    How You Can Fight Russia's Plans to Troll Americans During Campaign 2020

    The goal of Russian interference is to trigger emotional reactions and drive people to ideological extremes, making it nearly impossible to build a consensus. But Americans are less likely to have their emotions manipulated if they are aware that manipulation is the goal.

    Jul 14, 2020

    Los Angeles Times

  • Counterterrorism

    Fighting Terror the Cold War Way

    With much talk about how to “win hearts and minds” in the Muslim world, it's surprising that few are looking back to a global contest of ideas that the U.S. and its allies categorically won: the Cold War, write Todd C. Helmus and Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 14, 2009

    ForeignPolicy.com

  • Ad Men for U.S. Defense

    Improving the U.S. military's brand identity demands more than just a catchy new slogan. While communications can help explain U.S. policies, the behavior of every soldier, sailor, airman and marine is what ultimately determines how civilians view U.S. forces, write Todd Helmus, Russell Glenn and Christopher Paul in a commentary appearing in United Press International.

    Aug 20, 2007

    United Press International

Publications