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The U.S. Is Losing the Social Media War

Close up of silhouetted male hand typing on laptop keyboard
Close up of silhouetted male hand typing on laptop keyboard

Our adversaries are using our own technology against us—while we’re not allowed to use it to defend ourselves

Cyber or information-environment security is often in the news, yet most of our focus has been on theft of intellectual property, denial of service attacks, and assaults on personal privacy. Far less attention has been paid to the ways social media have facilitated a level of propaganda and falsehoods, which is far more pernicious than anything previously experienced. The continuous assault on objective, truthful information threatens to undermine democratic institutions, including a free press.

As a former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager, I recently concluded a $50 million program, Social Media in Strategic Communication, that led to the release of more than 200 publications and to the creation of a science of social media.

What we learned is that “bullsh..t” is a weapon that is being used worldwide to fundamentally attack the medium of the press, and that the issue of freedom of the press is, in fact, a diversion. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, is a master of this type of cognitive hack.

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