Social Media and Influence Operations Technologies

Implications for Great Power Competition

Published in: Strategic Assessment 2020: Into a New Era of Great Power Competition, Chapter 7, pages 153–166 (2020)

Posted on RAND.org on October 23, 2020

by Todd C. Helmus

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Nation-states have increasingly been waging foreign propaganda campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Such campaigns are enticing because they are cheap and easy to execute; they allow planners to identify, target, and reach specific audiences; and the campaign's anonymity limits the associated political and foreign policy risks. Russia, China, and the so-called Islamic State are three key U.S. adversaries that have exploited online technologies for propaganda. This chapter reviews the aims, capabilities, and limitations of online propaganda for each of these entities. The chapter also highlights key recommendations that the United States should adopt in order to counter adversary use of online propaganda.

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