The Global Engagement Center’s Technology Engagement Team moves technologies from concept to application in support of smart policies and operations. TET has developed the US Government’s sole dedicated effort to identify, assess, test and implement technologies against the problems of foreign propaganda and disinformation, in cooperation with foreign partners, industry and academia. The TET’s programs include the GEC Tech Demo Series, the GEC Tech Challenges, and the GEC Technology Testbed.
- Tech Demo Series: Since May 2018, the GEC has hosted biweekly demos of promising technologies against the problems of propaganda and disinformation. Technologies have included psychological resilience tools, blockchain-based info validation tech, crowdsourced info vetting, social media monitoring, and much more.
- Tech Challenges: The GEC convenes intensive workshops with international partners to understand, assess and find ways to implement effective tech solutions to foreign propaganda and disinformation. Recent workshops have met in New York, Washington, D.C., and London.
- Technology Testbed: The GEC has implemented a technology Testbed, enabling the US Government to rapidly identify and test promising technologies against foreign propaganda and disinformation. The Testbed runs structured short-duration experiments to understand potential tech uses against specific operational challenges. In support of the Testbed, the GEC recently commissioned the scientific study “Weapons of Mass Distraction: Foreign State-Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age,” which describes human vulnerabilities to disinformation and propaganda, and some potential roles of technology in reducing their effects.
Following the success of the 2018 Tech Demo Series pilot, the GEC is strengthening the Series for 2019. The GEC invites industry, academia, and civil society to present their technological solutions to the problems of foreign disinformation and propaganda during one of its biweekly demos in Washington, D.C. Technologies could include adtech tools; consumer-level disinformation awareness tools; counter-disinformation technology integrators (e.g., social media innovations/apps); information verification tools (e.g., blockchain-based validation); online media processors (e.g., “fact checker” sites); messaging tools; psychological resilience tools (e.g., media literacy systems); social listening and disinformation detection tools; or tech-enabled games against disinformation. If you have a functional technological solution, or if you’d like to nominate another technology, send a request for information to email@example.com.
On May 2, 2018, the GEC held its kickoff event for this technology series and participants agreed to hold short demonstrations of technology to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation through the end of 2018. These technologies may include, but are not limited to, bot network detection, blockchain-enabled content authentication, and counter-messaging automation. Participants were encouraged to address key concerns, such as:
- Rapidly identify emerging propaganda and disinformation technologies.
- Describe the dynamic interaction of cyber operations and information operations for influence purposes.
- Identify technological vulnerabilities of propaganda and disinformation operations.
- Predict adversaries’ adaptations to US efforts to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.
- Provide technological solutions to the challenges posed by generative adversarial networks (deepfakes).
The GEC Tech Demo Series hosted a workshop on July 24, 2018, at United Nations Headquarters, New York City. This workshop brought together government, industry and foundation experts on subjects relevant to GEC’s mission to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. The workshop sought to:
- Advance cooperative technological opportunities among the U.S. Government, private industry, academia, and civil society against the problems of foreign propaganda and disinformation.
- Identify emerging market-driven and novel combinations of technologies for use against foreign propaganda and disinformation.
- Recruit interested parties into the GEC’s biweekly Tech Demo Series.
This conference uniquely focused on the nexus of U.S. Government and private-side technological solutions to the problems of foreign propaganda and disinformation. The conference featured a US Government panel, which described its technological approaches to solving these problems, and included a second panel composed of industry experts, who offered commercial opportunities to overcome these same problems. The conference also included an open audience discussion of technological solutions. GEC’s goal was to draw as much as possible on New York-based technologists, who offer a perspective very different than the perspective received during GEC’s May 2, 2018, kickoff event in Washington, DC. This perspective will help frame the GEC’s approach to technology experimentation and implementation.
On December 4-6, 2018, the GEC and the State Department’s Office of Global Partnerships co-sponsored the Boldline Accelerator, facilitating public-private partnerships to develop novel technological solutions to propaganda and disinformation. Participants in the Boldline Accelerator included Truepic, Zignal Labs, Capitol Interactive, VidRovr, Argonne National Lab, Bakamo, Axum Graphics, and IST Research. The participants self-organized into two groups on the final day to conceptualize hybridized solutions to disinformation and propaganda, and presented their concepts. Interagency representatives, including GEC’s Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator, participated in a panel critiquing the two presentations. The conceptual presentations demonstrated the possibilities for hybridized solutions to address the broad problems of disinformation, and illustrated the benefits of employing multiple interactive technologies simultaneously.
On March 7, 2019, the GEC co-hosted the US-UK Tech Challenge in Bristol, UK, in partnership with the UK Cabinet Office and the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The US-UK Tech Challenge hosted technology demonstrations by mostly Europe-based companies with specialized systems against foreign propaganda and disinformation, including Semantic Visions, DeepSeer, the Changing Character of War Centre, the Observatory on Social Media, Sensika Technologies, WaterOnMars, and Information System Security Partners. A panel of US and UK experts scored each technology against standardized criteria and chose Semantic Visions for a $250,000 grant, with the intention of immediately implementing the technology in support of a GEC partner’s operational requirements.
The GEC is seeking additional participants in its future GEC Tech Demo Series activities. For more information, please contact us and check back here for updates. For Twitter activity, use #GECTechDemos.