The Commons Lab today released a new policy memo analyzing the increased potential of social media to exacerbate conflict situations and create cybersecurity threats – a potential “gamechanger” as the United States seeks to ramp up its cybersecurity efforts. The brief is the first in the program’s Policy Memo Series.
Using recent riots in India as an example, Dr. Rebecca Goolsby, a program officer with the Office of Naval Research, describes in the policy memo how social media channels can quickly disseminate false information and argues that social media users must develop a “healthy skepticism” when dealing with information from outlets like Twitter and Facebook to avoid this new brand of cyber-attack. From the executive summary:
Social media is responsible for much positive change in the world. But these new tools can be used by bad actors to foment strife and undermine stability, as seen during violent incidents in the Assam state of northeast India in July 2012. Cybersecurity efforts must take into account the growing potential for cyber-attack using social media, where hoax messages are incorporated into a stream of otherwise legitimate messages, and understand how quickly mobile apps and text services can disseminate false information. Authorities and volunteers must develop a healthy skepticism about information derived from these systems and new research and tools are needed to facilitate the self-policing of social media.