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Identification-imitation-amplification: understanding divisive influence campaigns through cyberspace

In this article, Jelena Vićić and Richard Harknett offer an analytical construct to better understand the mechanism by which cyber-enabled influence operations work and better discern the strategic goals behind cyber-enabled influence campaigns.

Jelena Vićić and Richard Harknett
19 September 2023
Read the full article here

The authors explain that influence operations in and through cyberspace have fuelled much discussion in public and policy fora, the field of cybersecurity studies has to date devoted limited attention to constructing analytical frames to better study how they are conducted and, thus, better understand how they can potentially be managed.

In this article, Vićić and Harknett propose that cyber-enabled influence operations follow a core pattern of Identification-Imitation-Amplification, which when recognised can advance their capacity to study the phenomenon and to combat the campaigns themselves through improved policy and strategy. By applying this framework, the authors find that the observation stage of information processing is most critical and that manipulating observation is particularly susceptible to producing divisiveness across groups.

They conclude that the challenge of combating cyber-enabled influence campaigns will only intensify as more states experiment with this potential alternative to war as they seek to advance their goals in 21st century strategic competition. Getting the analytical definitions and framework correct is a necessary but not sufficient step to meeting this challenge. Understanding how IIA impacts observation can enable new lines of academic research and policy prescription.

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