The Black Market for Social Media Manipulation

Countering the Malicious Use of Social Media

NATO’s Center for Excellence for Strategic Communication
Read the Report here

Around the turn of the decade, when the popularity of social media sites was really beginning to take off, few people noticed a secretly burgeoning trend — some users were artificially inflating the number of followers they had on social media to reap financial benefits. Even fewer noticed that organisations such as the Internet Research Agency were exploiting these new techniques for political gain. Only when this innovation in information warfare was deployed against Ukraine in 2014 did the world finally become aware of a practice that has now exploded into federal indictments, congressional hearings, and a European Union Code of Practice on Disinformation.

At the heart of this practice, weaponized by states and opportunists alike, is a flourishing black market where buyers and sellers meet to trade in clicks, likes, and shares. NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Latvia and the Ukrainian Social Media analytics company Singularex have undertaken a joint venture to map the online market for social media manipulation tools and services. They scanned the dark web and tracked down sellers, buyers, and victims in an attempt to understand what a potential customer, wishing to wage information warfare, can purchase online.

Read the Report here

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