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Digital and Social Media Assessment for Effective Communication and Cyber Diplomacy

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Human Factors and Medicine

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Crisis, Cyberdiplomacy, Cybersecurity, Disaster, Emergencies, Information Operations, Information Sharing, Open Source Information, Social Media


Adversarial and competitive information campaigns have emerged as a credible threat to NATO missions and communications. Disinformation, misinformation, propaganda and crowd manipulation have become popular adversarial tactics in a pervasive anti-Western, anti-democratic strategy that NATO operators must take into account in planning and mission execution, in strategic communications, public affairs, and related concerns. Increasingly, social media platforms are being used by political and social leaders to influence the global polity toward their preferred national or international goals. This ‘cyberdiplomacy’ is loosely, if at all, controlled and the mechanisms by which individuals are influenced are poorly understood. Prior work of the NATO Research Technology Group (HFM-248 RTG, Social Media and Information Technology for Disaster and Crisis Response) demonstrated new techniques for identifying and understanding swarming tactics and the manipulation of the information environment. Technical demonstrations for three multi-national military exercises successfully refined technologies and techniques, improved workflows, and expanded academic understanding of the problem space. These events allowed researchers and NATO staff to work side-by-side to exploit information from social media and generate knowledge for immediate operational impact. This teamwork greatly advanced operators’ understanding of the new information environment and increased their ability to monitor adversary attacks.


The RTG will focus on two elements of cyberdiplomacy. First, we will explore how individuals and groups are influenced to support socio-political movements through social media communication efforts. Second, we will explore the emerging field of cyberdiplomacy to identify trends, develop a foundational understanding of the socio-political forces behind the strategy, and consider effective NATO responses to this new form of international influence. Our efforts will encompass social science and technical aspects of this problem space, to include the domains of social network analysis, social psychology, communications and media theory, computer science and information science, international relations and mediation, and social science. In particular the scope of early activities of this Research Technology Group will be directed to the following goals: • Develop a foundational understanding of how social media messaging and narrative development are used to influence social groups to support a particular national cause, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This would include the emotional basis of influence, the containment of emotionality in discourse, and the methods of crowd manipulation and social hysteria propagation used in an adversarial or competitive information environment. • Explore tactics, techniques and procedures for developing effective narratives in an adversarial or competitive information environment. • Identify how NATO will be affected by various types of competitive and adversarial information campaigns, how to identify and evaluate adversarial and competitive information actors, and effective tactics, techniques and procedures for managing information conflict and competitions. • Develop a foundational understand of resilience against manipulation, hysteria propagation and group polarization for identifying the principles of effective cyberdiplomacy and their use in messaging and narrative development. • Bring together relevant research from NATO and Partner for Peace countries for rapid transition of current state of the art to improve and refine the capabilities of NATO practitioners in communications, messaging and related activities. • Work with the newly inaugurated NATO Digital Working Group and NATO Industry Advisory Group to develop pathways for novel low-objective experiments and technical demonstrations. • Engage stakeholders through workshops and meetings with NATO officers, the NATO Industry Advisory Group, academics and relevant science organizations.


This research technology group would concentrate on the strategic communications, command control of the information environment and public affairs / public diplomacy. Specific topics would include both technical (computer science / information science and cyber-forensic) approaches and social science approaches (cross-cultural communication, social network analysis,social psychology, sociology, anthropology, media studies, international affairs, mediation, and journalism research).

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