The US Global Engagement Center (GEC) based at the State Department issued a Top 10 list of U.S. Government Research Topics on Countering Disinformation and Propaganda to help drive multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary research collaborations. The GEC worked with counter disinformation experts from the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Agency for Global Media, and academic advisors and reviewers to develop the research topics.
The GEC’s mission is to “direct, lead, synchronize, integrate, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign nonstate propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security, or stability of the United States, its allies and partner nations.”
There are currently no associated funding mechanisms for the topics, but the GEC is exploring future funding opportunities and offers pro-bono collaboration models such as curriculum/course design, joint academic seminars, graduate student-led research collaborations, and information exchange opportunities with its staff and partners.
The Top 10 U.S. Government Counter Disinformation and Propaganda Research Topics are:
- WHOLE OF GOVERNMENT & CIVIL SOCIETY APPROACHES FOR BUILDING RESILIENCY
How can democratic governmental institutions and civil societies effectively mitigate state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation while protecting citizens’ civil rights and liberties?
What are effective short-, medium-, and long-term democratic governmental, institutional, and/or non-governmental approaches/strategies to mitigate the effect and impact of state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
Does increasing/building trust and credibility in democratic governments and/or institutions mitigate the effect and/or impact of state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
What happens when misinformation becomes weaponized by state or non-state actors and becomes disinformation?
Which institutional (e.g., state or media institutions), politico-economic, and/or societal characteristics make societies more vulnerable to disinformation and how?
How effective are media and/or digital literacy programs in countering the effects of state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
- TECHNOLOGY & TACTICS
What future and/or maturing technologies — such as AI and/or deep fakes — pose the greatest risk to counter state and non-state actor propaganda and disinformation efforts? How do we prepare for them?
What tools can help us understand how disinformation campaigns start in a particular place and language, and then spread regionally and linguistically? How can we track how the narratives
resonate in each place and language?
- TARGET AUDIENCES
How do state and non-state actors choose target audiences for their propaganda and disinformation efforts, and how do they operationalize targeting of specifc audiences?
- PSYCHOLOGY & CULTURE
What are the psychological and cultural factors influencing the impact, resonance, or persistence of state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
- MEASURING IMPACT
How can we better measure and assess the impact and effect (including secondary effects) of state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation, and U.S. and other democratic governments’ mitigation efforts on audiences, behavior, politics, economy, and society?
How effective are the U.S. and other democratic governments in countering the effects of state and state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
- IDENTIFYING AND EXPOSING
How do we identify and expose or label state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation in real time and stop it from being amplified while respecting civil liberties? What are the most effective labels to limit the impact of propaganda and disinformation?
How do we get ahead of disinformation with fact-based information and inoculate audiences against the impact of disinformation?
- EMERGING THREATS
What are the connections between state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation efforts, including similarities and overlap between state actors and nexuses between state actors and non-state actors (including transnational racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists)?
What are emerging propaganda and disinformation tactics, tools, technologies, strategies, and patterns used by state and non-state actors to spread disinformation and propaganda?
How can the U.S. and other democratic governments deter state and non-state actors from using disinformation?
How do we become more proactive in our efforts to counter state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?
What is the role of private sector actors, such as for-profit marketing firms or social media platforms, to counter disinformation & propaganda?
What are possible obstacles or pitfalls to countering state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation?