Combating Foreign Disinformation on Social Media
Jul 19, 2021
Given rising tensions between the United States and China, understanding how the People's Liberation Army thinks about the use of disinformation campaigns on social media has emerged as an important question. The authors of this report identify key Chinese practices and the supporting infrastructure and conditions that such campaigns require to be successful, concluding that China is using Taiwan as a test bed for developing attack vectors.
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The Chinese military's focus on information warfare is expanding to include information operations on social media. Given the possibility of U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan or another regional contingency, understanding how the People's Liberation Army (PLA) thinks about the use of disinformation campaigns on social media has emerged as an important question for U.S. national security policymakers and defense planners. This report describes how the PLA might direct social media disinformation campaigns against the United States and its armed forces, especially the U.S. Air Force. The authors conducted interviews with regional experts during three trips to Asia and reviewed Chinese-language writings and analyses of publicly attributed, or at least reasonably suspected, examples of Chinese disinformation and other malign social media activity on both Chinese and foreign platforms. The authors identify key Chinese practices and the supporting infrastructure and conditions needed to engage in successful social media disinformation campaigns and conclude that China is using Taiwan as a test bed for developing attack vectors. The authors recommend being competitive in shaping and countering messages on social media, working to engage and protect Chinese-American service members (China's most likely targets), and incorporating adversary social media disinformation into future wargames.
Chinese Social Media–Based Disinformation Operations in Theory
Chinese Social Media–Based Information Operations in Practice
Case Study: Insights from Taiwan's Experience as China's Main Target for Social Media Disinformation
Regional Experiences and Responses to Chinese Disinformation
Conclusion and Recommendations
Potential Chinese Vulnerabilities to Social Media–Based Information Operations
This research was commissioned by the Air Force Special Operations Command and conducted within the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.
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