Mapping and quantifying political information warfare
Part 1 : Propaganda, domination & attacks on online media
26 October 2016 in Information Warfare
Produced by Share Lab, a research team based in Yugoslavia, and part of Share Foundation – a research and data investigation lab exploring different technical aspects of the intersections between technology and society. The Lab explores electronic frontier’s highways, hidden. invisible roads and deep waters of information flow in order to better understand the new, emerging forms of privacy-related risks, network neutrality and security threats.

“Throughout the history communication and information have been fundamental sources of power and counter-power, of domination and social change.This is because the fundamental battle being fought in society is the battle over the minds of the people. The way people think determines the fate of norms and values on which societies are constructed.”


As framed by the media theorist Manuel Castells, we should not overlook the oldest and most direct form of media politics: propaganda and control. This is: (a) the fabrication and diffusion of messages that distort facts and induce misinformation for the purpose of advancing government interests; and (b) the censorship of any message deemed to undermine these interests, if necessary by criminalizing unhindered communication and prosecuting the messenger.

Governments are now experimenting with more sophisticated ways of exerting [Internet] control that are harder to detect and document[“Whither Internet Control?” Evgeny Morozov]. It is the goal of this text to examine some of those methods based on our local experience, and we believe that they are used or can be used worldwide in similar forms.

From our ‘Superman case’ three years ago until now, we have witnessed a variety of violations in the online environment in Serbia. Specific cases of breaches of online rights and freedoms that our small team has been monitoring are made of arbitrary blocking or filtering of content, cyber attacks on independent online and citizen media, arrests and judicial proceedings against social media users and bloggers, manipulation with the public opinion through the use of different tech tools, surveillance of electronic communications, violation of rights of privacy and protection of personal data; pressure, threats and decreasing the security of online and citizen media journalists and individuals. We filed more than 300 different cases in almost three years, and created a monitoring database that is a foundation for this analysis.

Our main interest in this analysis is to try to explore some of the forms and methods of interventions that different political actors or power structures can use to control and conquer online sphere. Here we will mostly speak about hidden, indirect actions, interventions done by the unknown actors, individuals with hidden or fake identities, companies without visible ties to government officials, political troll armies and troll lords, or even “artificial” entities.

As usual in our investigations we will try to quantify and visualise some of those forms and try to detect and understand some patterns.


Read complete analysis