Did Google cross the line from normal advocacy to employing techniques identical to hybrid information warfare? These techniques are different from normal advocacy because at root they involve deception. Manipulation of information and tampering with the natural flow of information, and purposely overwhelming target with false signals.
I’m not an expert on hybrid information warfare. I started this conversation in hopes that experts would examine what happened with Google, civil societies, lobbying groups,the copyright directive and vote in the EU parliament. It looks like that is now going to happen.
Here are some key questions to ask when examining this within the framework of hybrid information warfare:
- Was there a coordinated effort to degrade and manipulate information and then distribute it?
- Was there then an effort to direct that manipulated and degraded information at a particular target?
- Was there an effort to overwhelm the information systems of the target by technological means?
- If information systems were overwhelmed did this prevent contrary information from reaching target?
- Were there obvious command and control points that controlled the flow of manipulated information to target?
- Was there evidence the command and control point had the ability to direct manipulated information at particular targets?
- Was there evidence the flow of manipulated information was abruptly turned on or off? Or suddenly directed at different targets?
In particular look at the website SaveYourInternet.eu within this framework. This website had all the automated tools that directed, tweets, emails and robo calls to MEPs. Look at the groups at saveyourinternet.eu. Google’s consultant N-Square Consulting apparently ran this website. Look at command and control relationship between Google and it’s consultancy N-Square.
Hybrid information warfare relies on proxies. Here are some things to remember about hybrid warfare proxies:
- Proxies may not be aware they are being used as proxies
- Proxies may be funded directly, indirectly or not at all
- Proxies may sometimes produce information that is not helpful to the attacker, however
- Proxy information not helpful to the attacker is not distributed, and
- Proxies never meaningfully oppose attacker
- Proxies can include, related corporations, subcontractors, lobbying groups, civil societies, anonymous actors, and even state funded institutions
Investigators should look for any cultivated connection between attacker and proxies that encourages the production of information helpful to the attacker. Doesn’t need to be money. As an example: Wikimedia gets money from Google, but the real beneficial relationship between Google and Wikimedia is built into Google’s search algorithm that drives enormous traffic to Wikipedia.
The big question to be examined: are private information monopolies like Google incompatible with democracy? Look at the information “battlespace” and ask who has the overwhelming advantage? Information monopolies or democracies? Use Google as the stand in:
- Collection of information: Google has more information than all national governments combined.
- Distribution of information: Google’s search, advertising, video and mobile phone OS give it overwhelming dominance in the distribution of information.
- Protection of information: Follows from Googles dominance in distribution. It can down rank damaging information while opponents often have hacked information distributed by Google.
- Manipulation of information: Google algorithms routinely present search results that do not not properly represent reality. It also appears that Google funded proxies often distribute information that is misleading or outright false. Democracies and other political entities have very limited abilities in this regard as they do not control enough information distribution.
- Information Disturbance, Degradation and Denial. Google again clearly has the advantage here. This follows simply because democratic governments have few extremely limited means to distribute information when compared to Google.
How is hybrid information warfare any different between normal lobbying and advertising? Just as there are laws against unattributed,deceptive or misleading advertising, the same principles follow. If an information monopoly engages in any sort of deception, directly or indirectly it crosses into the realm of information warfare. Is it illegal? I’ll let experts decide.