Information Warfare

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Information operations and warfare, also known as influence operations, includes the collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. RAND research has enabled military leaders and policymakers to develop strategies and policy frameworks to address the challenges of these military operations.

  • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill shaking hands with Secretary of State Dean Acheson in front of a world map, as Director W. Averell Harriman of the Mutual Security Agency (right) looks on, January 8, 1953, photo by U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    Commentary

    The Irony of Misinformation: USIA Myths Block Enduring Solutions

    Unlike Russia and China, the U.S. government has failed to institutionalize the importance of information in foreign policy. The United States lacks formalized leadership structures to tackle information issues head on, and a central organization to coordinate activities to understand, inform, and influence foreign audiences.

    Jul 7, 2022

  • Ballet dancers perform Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 28, 2016, photo by Grigory Dukor/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Cognitive Dissonance and Repression Shape Russian Perceptions of the Conflict in Ukraine

    Cognitive dissonance theory offers a compelling explanation for one of the confounding phenomena emerging from the war in Ukraine—Russians who refuse to believe their Ukrainian family members' lived experiences of the war. How is it that of the two cognitions Russians are wrestling with, the Kremlin's manufactured truth often prevails?

    Jun 29, 2022

Explore Information Operations

  • Elon Musk's twitter account on a smartphone in front of the Twitter logo, April 15, 2022, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    Commentary

    Elon Musk May Have a Point About Bots on Twitter

    Twitter has a deep bench of engineers working for the company. They have access to trillions of data points on their over 300 million monthly active users. Why has a company this size struggled to clean up its platform?

    Sep 23, 2022

  • Hands typing on a laptop keyboard at night, photo by Zhanna Danilova/Getty Images

    Announcement

    Fake RAND Report on 'Weakening Germany'

    A supposedly leaked RAND report about a bizarre U.S. conspiracy to “weaken Germany” is fake. Genuine RAND research, analysis, and commentary on the war in Ukraine may be found at rand.org.

    Sep 14, 2022

  • Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia attends Security Council meeting convened at the request of the Russian Federation who accused Ukraine of developing biological weapons under the tutelage of the United States, at U.N. Headquarters in New York, March 11, 2022, photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Debunking Russian Lies About Biolabs at Upcoming U.N. Meetings

    Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, its diplomatic missions began circulating some particularly fantastical lies. It's tempting to write off such claims as cartoonish propaganda. But Russia is making similarly outrageous claims to the United Nations and other international forums. Such maneuvers could dangerously undermine international arms control agreements.

    Sep 12, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Information Warfare: Methods to Counter Disinformation

    We consider the nature of disinformation and its use in the hybrid warfare domain, before examining the problem through frames of planning approach, truth theory, systems thinking, and military strategy.

    Sep 8, 2022

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fencing in the Metaverse with an Olympic gold medal fencer in a video released October 28, 2021, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

    Commentary

    Facebook Misinformation Is Bad Enough. The Metaverse Will Be Worse

    Virtual reality environments such as the metaverse will enable psychological and emotional manipulation of users at a level unimaginable in today's media. We must not wait until these technologies are fully realized to consider appropriate guardrails for them. We can reap the benefits of the metaverse while minimizing its potential for great harm.

    Aug 22, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Moscow, Russia, June 30, 2022, photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters

    Report

    Russia's Evolving Use of Information Confrontation

    Information confrontation is the use of offensive or defensive informational means to achieve political, economic, or military objectives. Russian strategy likens information weapons with weapons of mass destruction since both have the potential to reshape the international system. The Ukraine experience offers insights into Russia's tactics.

    Aug 18, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Russian and Ukrainian Perspectives on the Concept of Information Confrontation: Translations, 2002–2020

    This volume compiles texts from leading members of the military-scientific communities in Russia and Ukraine and illustrates how decisionmakers in these countries understand and debate information weapons and information influence.

    Aug 18, 2022

  • Student walks through an archway at Cambridge University, photo by burcintuncer/Getty Images

    Commentary

    New Legislation May Not Be Enough to Counter Chinese Interference in British Universities

    There is alarming evidence of growing Chinese espionage and influence in UK universities that could threaten UK national security and academic freedoms. Three complementary initiatives could increase university researchers' awareness of the potential risks of collaborating with certain Chinese partners.

    Jul 8, 2022

  • Illustration of network connections over Earth, image by Anton Balazh/Adobe Stock

    Report

    Russia's Information Warfare with the West

    Popular portrayals of the Russian disinformation machine imply an organized and well-resourced operation, but evidence suggests that it is neither. Nonetheless, Russian social media activity can be harmful to U.S. interests and is likely to evolve.

    Jun 7, 2022

  • Blog

    Gun Policy, China and Taiwan, Russian Propaganda: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on reducing America's unacceptably high rates of gun violence, what would happen if China “quarantines” Taiwan, and Russia's “firehose of falsehood.”

    May 27, 2022

  • Jessica Cecil listens as Mark Thompson speaks at the RAND Europe Council of Advisors meeting in London, UK, May 6, 2022, video still from RAND Europe Council of Advisors meeting

    Blog

    Combating Disinformation by Bolstering Truth and Trust

    For Jessica Cecil, founder and former head of the Trusted News Initiative, today feels a bit like the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire, in which agreed-upon facts endure in only a few isolated places of elite discussion and there is no common language of politics. She spoke about the need for governments, companies, news organizations, and relevant civil society groups to work together to combat disinformation at a meeting of RAND Europe's Council of Advisors.

    May 24, 2022

  • Mark Thompson discusses disinformation at the RAND Europe Council of Advisors meeting in London, UK, May 6, 2022, video still from RAND Europe Council of Advisors meeting

    Blog

    Russia Will Struggle to Sustain Its Disinformation Machine, Former New York Times/BBC Chief Tells RAND Europe

    As former head of the New York Times and the BBC, Mark Thompson has tackled disinformation on both sides of the Atlantic. One of his big takeaways: It's not as easy as you might think to sustain a successful disinformation campaign.

    May 24, 2022

  • A still from a powerful animated video created by RAND artists-in-residence Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, known as V+J, to show how Russian propaganda spreads—and how it can influence its audience by entertaining, confusing, and overwhelming them.

    Project

    Russia's Propaganda Model

    RAND artists-in-residence Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, known as V+J, created a powerful animated video to show how Russian propaganda spreads—and how it can influence its audience by entertaining, confusing, and overwhelming them.

    May 24, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Do National Security Communication Campaigns Work? Taking a Lesson from the Public Health Sector

    Through a systematic review of research on public health communication campaigns, the authors identified insights relevant to national security communication campaigns, such as those conducted by the U.S. Army's psychological operations forces.

    May 10, 2022

  • A U.S. Marine participates in nonlethal riot control training at the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, August 14, 2020, photo by Cpl. Thomas Spencer/U.S. Marine Corps

    Commentary

    Effective Use of Nonlethal Weapons Could Require Combating Disinformation

    The temporary and reversible effects of nonlethal weapons reduce the potential for collateral damage while mitigating the risk of inadvertent escalation in peacetime and gray-zone situations. But public perceptions can have powerful effects on how these systems are employed and the impact of their use.

    Apr 22, 2022

  • Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the victim of a cyberattack that crippled its electronic database for days, in Los Angeles, California, February 16, 2016, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Commentary

    Preparing for a Cyberattack Starts at the Local Level

    The ongoing Russian war in Ukraine has highlighted the need for federal, state, and local level emergency managers to prepare to respond to a cyberattack with widespread impacts that significantly disrupt critical infrastructure.

    Apr 18, 2022

  • Blog

    Employing Insurgency in Ukraine, U.S. Hospital Prices, Reaching the Middle Class: RAND Weekly Recap

    This week, we discuss the potential value of an insurgent campaign in Ukraine; addressing L.A.’s housing crisis; lessons from the 2017 battle for Raqqa; a look at U.S. hospital prices; Americans’ options for reaching the middle class; and how to help single mothers get out of poverty.

    Apr 8, 2022

  • Screen shot of Kremlin-backed news channel Russia Today on UK television, February 22, 2022, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

    Commentary

    Don't Sleep on Russian Information War Capabilities

    Ukraine looks to have Russia beat in countering Russian disinformation. But this is only part of the story. Instead of fixating on Russia's missteps, policymakers and analysts would benefit from studying Ukraine's sophisticated information campaign while bearing in mind that Russia retains significant information warfare capabilities and a willingness to use them.

    Apr 5, 2022