In the past decade non-democratic states and fringe political groups have used unmoderated, freely available, social media in efforts to covertly influence people in ways that are detrimental to democratic values. Russia’s interference in the US election in 2016 (and later) showed the ease with which online debates could be manipulated in this way. During the Covid-19 pandemic the World Health Organisation warned of the “infodemic” that spread online: propaganda, disinformation and misinformation that was distributed through social media and state controlled news outlets with falsehoods, conspiracy theories and twisted facts that made the work of countering the pandemic more difficult. In this arena both Russia and China were actively spreading untruths to promote their own standing in the world. Finally, the case of Ukraine has highlighted the problem of unchecked online manipulation that targets a country over many years with false narratives.
FFI has researched covert influence efforts and information operations in social media since 2016. However, a key concern for Norway is that it lacks expertise on Chinese activities in this arena. For FFI the collaboration with Hitotsubashi University is a core activity to remedy this, Professor Ichihara has done groundbreaking work on Chinese influence efforts targeting Japan. It is desirable to strengthen this collaboration and also widen it by involving other researchers from Norway so we can encourage further Norway-Japan efforts in this arena.
The conference will take place over 3rd and 4th of December 2022. The state of Bergh and Ichihara's work will be presented in an introductory talk, to outline the state of the art in the field and and where we need to work to strengthen democracies. The invited talk will discuss their own work with reference to how the field can be moved forward.