Political Cyber Operations: A South Pacific Case Study

Political Cyber Operations: A South Pacific Case Study

Matthew Warren (Deakin University Centre of Cyber Security Research and Innovation, Victoria, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2020070102

Abstract

Social media impacts all aspects of society from citizens to businesses, but also political parties. The article proposes a new social media engagement model that evaluates political cyber operations and the success of such campaigns during elections. The article will use the Cook Islands 2018 general election to validate the model.
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1. Introduction

Social media has been defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Social media impacts all aspects of society from citizens to businesses but also political parties.

Social Media offers real challenges for political parties as there is increased acceptance of social media by voters. It also means that political discussions are conducted in a public forum and voters have the ability to contribute to the discussion. This means that political parties may have little control over the discussion or even lose control of the discussion that occur online. The means that social media has real challenges for political parties.

So why is social media so important for political parties. It is important because of the large and rapidly increasing number of users (voters) using social media and their increased online expectations. It is also important because users (voters) have expectation around the use of technology to engage with a variety of organisations and individuals, social media has become the accepted standard due to its of widespread use and easy of use, there is the expectation that users (voters) can engage with political parties.

From a political party perspective, social media provides a cost-effective medium to reach-out to large number of users (voters), it provides rich two way engagement with users (voters) and by its nature creates interaction. Social media also offers a business benefits for political parties, by using social media they could engage with many more users (voters) rather than traditional media, so it means their investment in social media could give greater returns.

From a political party perspective, social media provides a cost-effective medium to reach-out to large number of users (voters), it provides a rich two-way engagement with users (voters) and by its nature creates interaction. Social media also offers a business benefits for political parties, by using social media they could engage with many more users (voters) rather than traditional media, so it means their investment in social media could give greater returns. Another key aspect of the use of social media by political parties is that it allows them to influence voters and the way they could vote; this is also known as information operations. Information operations also known as influence operations, includes the collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. (Waltzman, 2017). Some key terms in relation to the negative use of social media includes:

  • Information Operations (now often called Cyber Operations): Cyber operations are the means possessing the resources, skills, knowledge, operational concepts and procedures to be able to have an effect in cyberspace (ASPI, 2018);

  • Influence Operations: The collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent (Waltzman, 2017);

  • Fake News: The malicious publication, dissemination and reproduction, by whatever means, of false news and documents which have been fabricated or falsified or mendaciously attributed to third parties (French Government, 2018).

The paper presents a model that allows for the assessment of information operations by political parties and uses an election campaign to validate the model.

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2. Research Question

The researchers have identified a number of key research questions that they wanted resolved. The research questions are:

  • What impact does social media have upon political parties engagement with voters (influence operations)?

  • What impact does social media have upon leaders of political parties engagement with voters (influence operations)?

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