Note — Dec 02, 2018

The Digital Maginot Line

Lots to think about in this piece by Renee DiResta making a parallel between the French Maginot Line (which was bypassed by the German Blitzkrieg) and today’s infrastructure defences being bypassed by influence campaigns. In the same way, “we” are currently working on preventing fake news and troll campaigns, when the next attack vectors will likely be different. Covers 45, Brexit, Duterte, misc trolls, Russian trolls, McLuhan, Arendt, DARPA, and a couple of perspective shifting quotes. “The solution to this problem requires collective responsibility among military, intelligence, law enforcement, researchers, educators, and platforms.” Which sounds… unlikely?

The campaigns are often perceived as organic online chaos driven by emergent, bottom-up amateur actions when a substantial amount is, in fact, helped along or instigated by systematic, top-down institutional and state actions. This is a kind of warm war; not the active, declared, open conflict of a hot war, but beyond the shadowboxing of a cold one. […]

Combatants evolve with remarkable speed, because digital munitions are very close to free. In fact, because of the digital advertising ecosystem, information warfare may even turn a profit. […]

In a warm information war, the human mind is the territory. If you aren’t a combatant, you are the territory. And once a combatant wins over a sufficient number of minds, they have the power to influence culture and society, policy and politics. […]

This capability gap is eminently exploitable; why execute a lengthy, costly, complex attack on the power grid when there is relatively no cost, in terms of dollars as well as consequences, to attack a society’s ability to operate with a shared epistemology?

Algorithmic distribution systems will always be co-opted by the best resourced or most technologically capable combatants. Soon, better AI will rewrite the playbook yet again — perhaps the digital equivalent of Blitzkrieg in its potential for capturing new territory. […]

We have to move away from treating this as a problem of giving people better facts, or stopping some Russian bots, and move towards thinking about it as an ongoing battle for the integrity of our information infrastructure – easily as critical as the integrity of our financial markets.