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Not Conspiracy Theory: How Online Trolls Can Control Your News

The way the internet works makes that possible

In last Thursday’s podcast, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks hosted intelligence analyst Denise Simon, talking about the way hostile foreign powers can use AI to generate false information:

A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 00.33. Show notes and links follow.

Robert J. Marks: Before we talk about some of the psychological aspects of something you taught me, which was the Gerasimov doctrine, there was recently a four day drill held in December 2019 in the Gulf of Oman in the Indian Ocean. The participants in these war games, I believe you can call them war games, were not exactly friends to the United States. They included Russia, Iran and China, and since Mind Matters and our website and podcast deals a lot with artificial intelligence, let me ask you, is any military AI or robotics a part of these war games?

Denise Simon: We would have to assume so. It would be irresponsible if we didn’t. But we also need to remember too, that probably 90% of what comes out of the Kremlin, comes out of Moscow, is not exactly the truth. Analysts, the Pentagon, and I would say the Defense Intelligence Agency, all have to strip away what they think may be superfluous to events and what they know, they wouldn’t necessarily have to inject into the events.

But I would argue that those military drills, especially because it included China with Russia, they do collaborate and they do collaborate also on artificial intelligence. So, the short answer is we would have to assume, yes,

Robert J. Marks: My goodness. I know that China’s actually sunk $30 billion into development of AI, promises to be the leader in artificial intelligence in a couple of years. We know that part of that is going to be militarily applicable, so that’s kind of chilling.

Let’s talk about a different aspect. As I mentioned, war is not all about killing people and breaking things. There’s psychological components to it also. Dr. Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany during World War II, and he used propaganda very powerfully. Modern cyber media amplifies our ability to mess with people’s minds and interfere with the nation’s business. This looks to be a part of Russia’s modern warfare strategy. It’ll include a lot of media information just exactly as you mentioned. I learned from you that the strategy was first published out loud by a Russian army general, Valery Gerasimov …

Note: Dr. Marks is referring to the Gerasimov Doctrine, a war fought in large part via fake news: “Non-military power includes economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, propaganda, threatening navigation, false or fake stories and publications, cyber threats, arrests, espionage, theft, demonization, corruption, ridicule, trolls, counterfeiting, broadcasts, chaos, violations of agreements/treaties, torture/death, proxies, gas-lighting and technology generally.”

Denise Simon: The Internet Research Agency paid Russian employees, generally the younger generation, about $600, $700 a month. Their only job was to troll the United States headlines and then put out fake articles, put out fake posts on social media in order to cause chaos, and they did that very well, and they continue to do that.

Note: Indeed. Read more about it here: “Much of the false news posted to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter via hidden IP addresses aims at putting the United States or the Ukraine in a bad light. There are other nakedly political motives that raise questions about Russian government involvement.”

Denise Simon: Now they’re going to use a different model because we have now found out about the Internet Research Agency, which by the way, was in the Robert Mueller investigative report. But they don’t always necessarily have operations in Russia. They may hire a center in Romania. They may use Bulgaria or Belarus. So, if you’re looking for some kind of other operations that might be in St Petersburg, or even in Moscow, it may not be there. They’re going to use proxy servers and proxy locations in order to carry these activities out, otherwise known as “active measures.”

Robert J. Marks: My goodness. We’ve come a long way since Joseph Goebbels had his propaganda from World War II, haven’t we?

Denise Simon: Well, it’s a new art form.

Next: How Russia uses new tech to create chaos in the United States.
Information warfare is part of the new Russian warfare strategy known as the Gerasimov and Primakov doctrines. Security analyst Denise Simon offers her thoughts on the Mueller Report: Was Donald Trump involved in election tampering in 2016?


Today’s Russian diplomacy: Deepfakes and radioactive poisons Because deepfakes are getting harder to spot, American news platforms waste time and energy trying to root them out. Analyst Denise Simon says Russia is putting a great deal of emphasis on catching up with the United States in AI but resorts to old-fashioned poisoning now and then.

You may also find helpful: Does government watch us on social media? Yes, so does business. They may all be getting to know you way better than you feel comfortable with. (Denise Simon)

Denise Simon has a radio show and blog, Founders Code.

Show Notes

  • 00:33 | Introducing Denise Simon, Senior Research / Intelligence Analyst for Foreign and Domestic Policy
  • 01:22 | AI as part of military drills
  • 03:12 | Psychological aspects of war
  • 04:17 | The Gerasimov doctrine
  • 07:42 | The Internet Research Agency
  • 09:23 | Other psychological war tactics
  • 10:49 | The Mueller report and election interference
  • 12:53 | The effect of misinformation
  • 14:17 | The Gerasimov Doctrine
  • 16:43 | The Primakov Doctrine
  • 17:50 | Maskirovka and deepfakes
  • 19:08 | Russian artificial intelligence
  • 21:39 | Russian video and audio deepfakes
  • 23:33 | Eliot Higgins’ investigations
  • 25:43 | Use of robotics and AI by Russia
  • 27:08 | Responding to these technological threats

Additional Resources

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Not Conspiracy Theory: How Online Trolls Can Control Your News