Influence at a distance: The IRA and European social media

On 17 October 2018, Twitter released a dataset of roughly 9 million Tweets attributed to Russian and Iranian state influence operations using its platform. To date, this release constitutes the largest single dataset that describes the rapidly emerging practice of information warfare on social media platforms.

Over the last decade, we have seen militaries across the world redraw their operational doctrines to put information at the heart of warfare. Whilst information has been an instrument of war for thousands of years, this is the first time that the ‘information domain’ has been conceptualised as a space where the warfare itself can happen. Since then militaries have begun to construct capabilities to fight warfare using information, especially on the Internet and especially through social media.

Last year, Demos published a short paper analysing Russian influence operations on Twitter in the UK. This year we will be taking the work further – carrying out research to form a robust, definitive picture into Russian influence operations to date across Europe. We will create a secure evidentiary platform upon which the discussion around the defensive responses to it can continue. Only by understanding information war clearly can our own strategies have a hope of working.