The conflicts of the future will be hybrid and in the information domain. As one of the main goals of hybrid warfare is to influence the citizens, the existence of the Internet and social media represent a suitable platform for spreading polarizing, misleading and negative narratives. Disinformation and fake news are shared through Internet-enabled propaganda, which became one of the methods of hybrid warfare.
This workshop provides insights into different types of hybrid threats, open source intelligence and other intelligence types, how media literacy and media consumption is relevant and what to watch out for in the current times.
The Media Mining System is a platform designed for media monitoring, analysis and data-driven decision making by extracting and analyzing multilingual information from open sources, such as TV, radio, blogs, social media, etc., in real time. This webinar also provides the participants with an overview of the system’s features, which enable users to investigate stories, first source of any news, social media topics and much more, making it possible to navigate the vast amount of information and to identify and counter disinformation.
Introduction - What is Hybrid warfare and how can OSINT help?
Hybrid warfare can be defined as a strategy employing political warfare and blending conventional, irregular and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as Fake News or disinformation efforts, foreign electoral intervention or political disruption, diplomacy, etc. Mark noted that it also represents an attempt to stay as much away from conventional warfare as possible.
Open source intelligence consists of data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an intelligence context. This could be data from TV, radio, websites, the open part of social media, newspapers or any other media that are accessible to everyone. The other intelligence types are HUMINT (Human Intelligence), IMINT (Imagery Intelligence), SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) and GEOINT (Geospatial Intelligence).
By employing hybrid warfare tactics actors create disruptions or reduce the capability of the adversary. The kinetic warfare representing military action is reduced, so the disruptions are done through a variety of different means. This could be done by, for instance, employing war from an economic perspective. This would force the country into financial difficulty, thus inducing social hardship on the population possibly even leading to starvation in some segments of citizenship. However, it can also be as simple as just disrupting certain industries. There is also a war from a societal perspective that happens when an actor increases polarization, where a specific base would amplify a certain narrative. Another component of hybrid warfare is a war from a cyber perspective including the capability of disrupting critical infrastructure, such as electricity, logistics chains, banking sector, etc., or it can also be the classical hacking in the sense of attacking governmental systems directly.
What do have Brexit, Hong Kong and Lebanon in common?
When we look back to the 2019 and before, there were a few campaigns exhibiting hybrid warfare means: Brexit campaign and situations in Hong Kong and Lebanon. Regarding the Brexit, actors both inside and outside the country have induced instability into the country via different means. They created narratives that were partially amplified by political actors that received a higher share of a voice compared to what they would usually get. Concerning the media during the Brexit campaign, there was a mix of social and traditional media, where social media campaigns got amplified by traditional media and political parties.
Situations in Hong Kong and Lebanon could also be understood as partly being amplified from outside, similarly as Brexit. The usage of new techniques together with unstructured protests took place, while educational programmes formed around the protests. These programmes were created by communities and academia who got involved because they were dissatisfied with the current situation in their respective countries. We can see various vectors being used from both sides – even going to the kinetic part with police or paramilitary present in both situations.
How has Coronavirus changed the environment?
COVID-19 era represents a hybrid actor’s paradise.
Because you have a population in fear and uncertainty and a government that is confronted with a wealth of unknowns and will undoubtedly make mistakes in the process of fighing the virus. This is because most of the decisions governments are making need to be made quickly while only possessing very little amount of confirmed scientific data. Moreover, the virus itself can also evolve, which adds other variables that cannot be predicted with a certainty. This situation also poses a challenge for journalists, who are also confronted with something where they do not have all the facts and they need to rely on experts. This is difficult simply because the expertise needs to be defined. In times of Coronavirus as a health issue impacting everyone many people on social media see themselves as “experts”. It can be stated that a distrust has now an additional dimension – health – which is scary, as it is very personal to us.
The changing media landscape
During the webinar, Mark focused on the media site as part of the hybrid warfare. He pointed out to the Digital News Report by Reuters Institute for the Study of journalism informing that the consumption of TV news in Europe went up 14 percentage points after lockdowns had been introduced showing that as soon as there is crisis, people turn back to traditional media. Mark continued with showing the data of media consumption and combining this data with the current situation in various countries.
The video below is a recording of the Hybrid Warfare & OSINT webinar featuring Ralph Thiele, the Chairman of the Berlin based “Politisch-Militärische Gesellschaft” (Political-Military Society), President of EuroDefense (Germany) and CEO of StratByrd Consulting, and Mark Pfeiffer, a Chief Visionary Officer of SAIL LABS.
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