Aug 19, 2018

6 Disinformation Tactics Brands Need to Know About

6 Disinformation Tactics Brands Need to Know About

The truth is that disinformation tactics are constantly evolving. While brands and social media companies are working to create disinformation solutions, bad actors are rapidly adjusting their methods of attack. That’s what makes solving this problem largely challenging. A solution is not just as simple as leveraging a brand sentiment or analysis tool to detect shifts in online conversations. The disinformation and misinformation problem is much more complex.

As heads of security and corporate communications teams work to solve for this digital problem, it’s important that they stay up to date with the latest disinformation trends and tactics to keep their social media defense and risk protection management strategy agile and able to defend their brand reputation long term. We’ve noted several recent trends that we are watching out for in the present and future disinformation campaigns. Here are six disinformation trends that are commonly used against brands today.

1. Topic squatting

There are multiple kinds of topic squatting, but what brands should be on the lookout for accounts amplifying little known issues and the crafting of a virtually exclusive narrative around those issues. By claiming relatively uncharted information space, a propagandist can readily become the primary source of information about the issue. Clever social media work and specific linking of that topic to others of interest will help users find their information, and the relative lack of other information sources will make it difficult to fact-check via other modes of online research.

2. Leveraging secondary issues

Propagandists often steer the narrative by amplifying secondary issues, and encouraging the media and brand audiences to talk about issues that are disconnected from the brand. This affords them the opportunity to influence sentiment around a brand without necessarily taking on the burden of having to manually construct a new false narrative. While it’s not specifically a digital technique, social media content algorithms can make it easy for these distractions to keep returning into public conversations.

3. Using truth, half-truth, and factual information to support fallacious narratives

Propaganda doesn’t need to be “fake news”. There are many ways to deceive by using facts — whether using truth that is a distraction from more pressing issues, omitting certain critical information from an otherwise factual narrative, or connecting verifiable facts together with fake logic. In some ways this is easier than constructing new lies and storylines altogether.

4. Making a movement look larger, and more mainstream than it is

As we’ve also observed in the US, the producers of these targeted brand attacks often attempt to make the narrative appear larger on social media than it really is in reality. If a propagandist’s goal is to bring a fringe view into the mainstream, or simply to sow social discord, amplifying false messages and amplifying the apparent size of the contrived conversation can be a useful tactic. For this play propagandists take a quantity over quality approach to the disinformation content they are creating.

5. Targeted advertising

Targeted, or “dark”, advertising has played a large role in many disinformation attacks on brands. Since social media advertising data is not public, and Facebook ads can be targeted at as few as ten people, dark campaign ads can often fly under the radar of platforms trying to proactively detect and flag these accounts. We expect this trend to grow, and we’re working on a disinformation solution to track and detect this activity.

6. Multi-platform campaigns

Finally, and most importantly, we are finding that disinformation campaigns aren’t just limited to a single platform or social channel. The disinformation campaigns that can really jeopardize brand integrity and do the most damage are multi-channel and multi-touch. The greater the exposure the faster the message becomes socialized. If these attacks were only operating on one channel, or were just bots, detection and tracking would be easy. But the problem is bigger than Twitter, bigger than bots, and bigger than fake news. It’s important for brand managers, and corporate communications teams to monitor conversations on all channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, good-old-fashioned websites, and WhatsApp.

Your brand reputation is priceless. We can protect it.

Reach out to learn more about how New Knowledge can keep your brand safe from damaging disinformation.