DARPA asks Protagonist Technology to help uncover and track enemy propaganda campaigns in social media

July 21, 2021
INCAS to develop computer tools and techniques that help intelligence analysts detect and make sense of geopolitical online influence campaigns.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers needed a company to help military intelligence experts make sense of enemy propaganda campaigns on social media and other online multimedia content. They found a solution from Protagonist Technology LLC in San Francisco.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced a $5.4 million contract to Protagonist last week for the Influence Campaign Awareness and Sensemaking (INCAS) project.

INCAS seeks to uncover computational techniques and tools that help intelligence analysts detect and make sense of geopolitical online influence campaigns on social media and in other multimedia online content. Additional contracts may be awarded.

The U.S. is engaged with its adversaries in an asymmetric and continual war of weaponized influence narratives, DARPA researchers pont out. Adversaries exploit misinformation and true information on blogs, tweets, and other online multimedia content.

Related: DARPA computer simulations target social media to root-out enemy disinformation and propaganda

INCAS seeks to develop computer tools to enable analysts to make sense of vast, noisy, and adaptive information to identify adversary influence campaigns.

Today, the ability to detect and make sense of geopolitical influence campaigns largely is a manual and ad hoc process. Analysts use social listening tools to formulate complex keyword queries; track trending keywords, hashtags, and topics; and read hundreds to thousands of documents to identify influence themes.

New or low-and-slow campaigns are difficult to detect early. Today's tools make it difficult to connect messages over time and across several platforms to track and assess evolving campaigns. Analysts must sift manually through many messages.

Marketing tools for analyzing audience demographics, interests, and personality, for example, lack explanatory and predictive power for deeper issues of geopolitical influence.

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Instead, INCAS seeks to develop tools with automated influence detection to detect implicit and explicit indicators of geopolitical influence in multilingual online messaging. Protagonist Technology experts will develop tools that dynamically segment the responding population and identify psychographic attributes such as world views, morals, and sacred values.

INCAS primarily will use publicly available data sources including multilingual, multi-platform social media, online news sources, and online reference data.

INCAS has five technical areas: influence indicator detection; population response characterization; influence campaign modeling; data and testbed development; and program evaluation.

For more information contact Protagonist Technology online at www.protagonist.io, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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