The Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) held its workshop titled “Understanding and Countering Online Falsehoods and Influence Operations” from 4 to 5 November at Marina Mandarin Singapore. This annual workshop is a follow-up to its previous editions, held in 2017 and 2018.
This year’s workshop focused on a wide range of issues concerning influence operations and aimed to capture the prominent debates in the field. The first panel set the context of the workshop and stretched the discussion from online falsehoods to influence operations. Building on this context, panels on day one discussed online falsehoods and influence operations in Asia, and election meddling. Both panels drew upon cases from different countries. The panel on Asia discussed the issue of trolling against humanitarian efforts in the Philippines, information operations directed at Hong Kong, and the plague of online falsehoods in Sri Lanka.
The panel on elections and information manipulation captured the various concerns related to information manipulation during the election period. Examples of such incidents were taken from countries in different continents, including Brazil, Sweden, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The second day of the workshop focused on the reception of online falsehoods, future concerns, and contemporary countermeasures. The panel on tactics, technology, and future concerns reviewed the technology and tactics leveraged in influence operations. It also explored potential future threats, including the advancement of deep fakes and whether they pose a significant threat within the grand scheme of malicious information manipulation efforts. The session on the reception of online falsehoods and inoculation allowed for a smooth transition from the supply side of the question to the reception aspect, and countermeasures after that. During this session, speakers unpacked the “psychology of misinformation”, and shared methods of inoculation against misinformation with references to cases including anti-vaccination, and climate change.
The final panel of the workshop, “Countering Online Falsehoods and Influence Operations”, reviewed various response measures being taken around the world. The speakers shared their diverse experiences, taking references to cases such as experiences with equipping civil servants to counter disinformation campaigns, a media literacy programme at a high school in Finland, and a grassroots citizen initiative in Lithuania.
The two-day workshop brought together speakers from different countries, and explored the question of online falsehoods and influence operations, with particular attention given to the experiences of different territories. The event attracted over two hundred participants, allowing for great exchanges and networking opportunities.