Trends in Online Foreign Influence Efforts | Empirical Studies of Conflict

Martin, Diego A.; Shapiro, Jacob N.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) create novel opportunities for a wide range of political actors. In particular, foreign governments have used social media to influence politics in a range of countries by promoting propaganda, advocating controversial viewpoints, and spreading disinformation. This report describes a new database of such 53 such foreign influence efforts (FIE) targeting 24 different countries from 2013 through 2018. FIEs are defined as: (i) coordinated campaigns by one state to impact one or more specific aspects of politics in another state, (ii) through media channels, including social media, by (iii) producing content designed to appear indigenous to the target state. The objective of such campaigns can be quite broad and to date have included influencing political decisions by shaping election outcomes at various levels, shifting the political agenda on topics ranging from health to security, and encouraging political polarization. Our data draw on more than 460 media reports to identify FIEs, track their progress, and classify their features.