Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Fall 2018

ORCID

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0675-7314

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Timothy R. Walton

Edna Reid

Kathleen Moore

Abstract

Computational propaganda involves the use of selected narratives, social networks, and complex algorithms in order to develop and conduct influence operations (Woolley and Howard, 2017). In recent years the use of computational propaganda as an arm of cyberwarfare has increased in frequency. I aim to explore this topic to further understand the underlying forces behind the implementation of this tactic and then conduct a futures analysis to best determine how this topic will change over time. Additionally, I hope to gain insights on the implications of the current and potential future trends that computational propaganda has.

My preliminary assessment shows that developments in technology, as well as a desire for improved narrative development will continue to lead to a more personalized narrative. This improved narrative will be more effective at influencing individuals and will ultimately support an organizations’ strategic goals.

One aspect of this analysis is to gain knowledge on the evolution of the cyber domain, including electronic propaganda. Another is to better understand the complexity between the pairing of psychological operations with the technical side of this topic, as well as the past effects that cyber propaganda campaigns have had. Through this research, I hope to gain a stronger understanding of the future of computational propaganda and how those in intelligence analysis positions can best discern information that is collected.

The overall goal of this research is to better understand this facet of the cyber domain. As traditional, boots on the ground, warfare techniques become less effective and more costly, alternative methods of warfare will continue to be developed and conducted. Computational propaganda is one of the branches of the cyber domain, falling under information warfare. I aim to identify an authoritative assessment on the plausible future of computational propaganda, as well as identify overall trends, in order to ensure resources are allocated to improving the defensive operations that prove to be adversarial to the United States and allies to the United States.

During data collection, I used academic and credible news sources, think tanks, government reports, as well as reports by credible organizations conducting research on the topic. I also used graphics and diagrams to better understand the technical process that is involved. Additionally, I used the information collected in a previous report that I completed on a “Futures Analysis of Russian Cyber Influence in the United State Political System.” I was able to gain a lot of insight from this paper especially because my team and I worked with a sponsor for the project that provided extremely valuable information regarding influence campaigns and echo chambers.

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