Digital Forensic Research Lab

  • INFOGRAPHICS - Disinformation in Democracies: Strengthening Digital Resilience in Latin America

    2018 saw political tides turn in three of Latin America’s largest democracies. These elections also saw deep polarization and distrust in institutions among Brazilians, Mexicans, and Colombians in an information environment ripe with disinformation. And while disinformation and misinformation are nothing new, the spread of false information at alarming rates is more effective and worrisome than ever. A year-long effort to identify, expose, and explain disinformation around elections in Latin America using open source methodologies yielded the following key findings and recommendations.


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  • How the European Union Avoided a Disinformation Crisis

    When voters in the twenty-eight European Union (EU) member states went to the polls in May to elect a new European Parliament, the second-largest democratic exercise in the world provided a “very tempting target for somebody who wanted to interfere in our democratic processes,” Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, said at the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S conference in London on June 20. But thanks to increased measures to protect its citizens from disinformation, he added, the EU “didn’t see any kind of spectacular attack.”


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  • The Christchurch Call and the Failure of US Leadership

    The Christchurch Call, signed by eighteen national governments and eight major technology companies on May 15, represents a significant development in the fields of counterterrorism and Internet policy. The statement comes two months after a white ethno-nationalist terrorist used a Facebook livestream to broadcast his massacre of fifty-one worshippers in a Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque. It commits its signatories to explore legal, regulatory, and technical solutions to counter the online spread of terrorist and violent extremist content. The Trump administration refused to sign, citing unspecified free speech concerns.


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  • Digital Resilience in Latin America: Automation, Disinformation, and Polarization in Elections

    2018 saw political tides turn in three of Latin America’s largest democracies. These elections also saw deep polarization and distrust in institutions among Brazilians, Mexicans, and Colombians in an information environment ripe with disinformation. Following a year-long effort in which the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and its Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) exposed and explained disinformation around key elections in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, on Thursday, March 28, 2019, the teams launched a comprehensive report that outlines trends and lessons learned from the 2018 presidential elections in Latin America.


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  • Has Progress Been Made in Containing Disinformation?

    The spread of online disinformation during the 2018 election campaigns in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil demonstrated to social media companies that they need to “make sure that we are not solving just the problems that we saw in the US in 2016, but that we are really thinking steps ahead,” according to Katie Harbath, public policy director of global elections at Facebook.


    The three high-profile elections in Latin America made up “one of our very first big test cases” for new measures meant to limit the spread of false information on Facebook, Harbath said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on March 28. But while Facebook has had some success in limiting harmful activity on its platform, Harbath explained “we have to have different solutions for all of our different platforms.”


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  • Disinformation in Democracies: Strengthening Digital Resilience in Latin America

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    2018 saw political tides turn in three of Latin America’s largest democracies. These elections also saw deep polarization and distrust in institutions among Brazilians, Mexicans, and Colombians in an information environment ripe with disinformation. And while disinformation and misinformation are nothing new, the spread of false information at alarming rates – facilitated by politicians, non-state actors, or even our own families and friends – are more effective and worrisome than ever. With this trend unlikely to change, how can we detect and combat this borderless phenomenon? What's next in the...

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  • How to Kill a Disinformation Narrative: Make it a Whodunit

    When trying to stop the spread of disinformation by malign foreign and domestic actors online, “it’s not enough to do the fact-checking,” according to Ben Nimmo, senior fellow for information defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. To really kill the power of the disinformation, “we have to do the story telling,” he argued.

    Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s Disinfo Week event in Brussels, Belgium, on March 8, Nimmo suggested that too many policy makers are focused on disinformation as an information warfare problem rather than “narrative warfare.” It is not access to better or new information that is making Russian and domestic extremist propaganda more successful online, Nimmo said, quite the contrary. “We have the facts,” Nimmo explained, but “they have the stories.”


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  • How to Fight Disinformation While Preserving Free Speech

    There are solutions “within the framework of our traditions of freedom of speech and free expression” to counter the spread of disinformation online, Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, said at the Council’s Disinfo Week event in Athens, Greece, on March 4.

    “We are not hopeless,” Fried said.


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  • Angela Merkel's Data Leaked

    Massive cyberattack targets politicians, celebrities, and journalists in Germany

    The personal information and correspondence of hundreds of German politicians, celebrities, journalists, and public figures has reportedly been leaked on Twitter since early December 2018. German media reports that the leaks were first discovered late on January 3 and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the targets.

    The targeted leaks “[look] like a clear attempt to disrupt German politics,” said Ben Nimmo, an information defense fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab).


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  • Nimmo Quoted in The Guardian on Nigel Farage


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