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- Sep 2017
Full Spectrum Influence Operations: Clint Watts is an expert in state-sponsored social media influence operations, and his testimony to the Senate Armed Services committee is riveting. We're vulnerable to state-sponsored attacks, he says, because we are too narrowly technological in our solutions. The Russians put together distributed and agile cross-functional networks of technologists, writers, trolls, and analysts. Americans tend to conceptualize the problem as technical, and don't understand the synergies between multiple legitimate and illegitimate entities. The Russians buy talent. Americans buy AI. The Russians also take an ecosystem approach to the problem. "Full Spectrum Influence Operations" coordinate the actions of illegitimate actors (hackers who steal documents) with borderline actors (controllers of bot networks and paid trolls) with legitimate actors (news agencies). They identify and an infiltrate networks of "useful idiots" who are hungry for the disinformation and stolen documents they can supply, which serves their immediate ends. This full spectrum approach launders foreign disinformation into seemingly legitimate U.S. based news almost immediately. It's not the bots and the Gmail hacks that are the impressive piece -- it's the way in which the entire system is expertly leveraged to create legitimacy.