Hacking Hearts and Minds: How Memetic Warfare is Transforming Cyberwar

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At a recent hearing about information warfare and possible Russian meddling in the U.S. election, the most revealing statement came from Michael Lumpkin, former head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center:

“To date, there is not a single individual in the U.S. government below the president of the United States who is responsible and capable of managing U.S. information dissemination and how we address our adversaries in the information environment.”

To many observers, it has become obvious that Russia, China, and even the Islamic State are out-maneuvering the U.S. and allied governments in their use of information warfare and online propaganda, which I refer to as memetic warfare. What is notable, and damning, is how little we are doing about it.

Information warfare is “a conflict we have largely ignored,” confessed Subcommittee Chairwoman Elise Stefanik at the same hearing. “What remains clear is that the cyber warfare and influence campaigns being waged against our country represent a national security challenge of generational proportions.” She added that the hearing “brought to the fore the need to consider national-level strategies to counter state-sponsored propaganda efforts.”

Some at the hearing supported the idea of recreating a United States Information Agency-type organization to help counter propaganda, an idea that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper floated in January. Others suggested bringing back the Active Measures Working Group, a cross-government team the Reagan administration created to address Soviet propaganda at the end of the Cold War. Click here to read more.

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