Recent developments should cause us to rethink what should lie within the scope of core national security issues. While terror and cyber threats are capable of causing great damage, it is increasingly evident that we should not neglect slow-burn issues that can be equally, if not more pernicious. A case in point is sophisticated disinformation campaigns and influence operations aimed at subverting the resilience of societies.
Some researchers think they have found fake Facebook groups almost entirely populated by bots. These fake groups, convincingly operated and orchestrated, leverage on existing filter bubbles and echo chambers, eventually attracting real fans. It is possible, as some researchers have posited, that many supporters of Donald Trump in 2016 on the presidential campaign trail were emboldened to declare their support for the candidate by the artificially-created perception of a swell in support for him. In this way, some of these originally-fake pages or groups swelled with real people, with the “fake” aspects of these groups withering away.
…Shashi Jayakumar is Head, Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), and Head of Future Issues and Technology (FIT) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. A version of this appeared in The Straits Times.