By David Robinson (Australian expert in information warfare)
I assess that the current goals for Russia's cyber and information warfare in Australia are to cause division in society and loss of trust in the outcomes of elections. I provided this assessment in a submission to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee Administration of the referendum into an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in April 2023.
Currently Simeon Boikov aka @aussiecossack is fronting the Russian information warfare strategy on the Voice Referendum. He is doing this by supporting the NO Campaign while holed up in the Russian Consulate and last week he was granted Russian citizenship by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
By openly supporting the NO Campaign I assess this has the aim to further undermine trust in the outcome of the vote for YES supporters and will surely lead to a sense of hostility of YES voters towards NO voters. All of these outcomes fulfill Russia's cyber and information warfare goals.
Zero impact so far
Luckily their strategy of boosting the NO campaign is so far having no impact on voters and even looks inflated by bots on x.com. This is easily seen by using 5th Column, an internet 2.0 product, when comparing the same post in Facebook and x.com.
As can be seen the engagement rates on x.com, it appears to have 7 times more traction than on Facebook when comparing the identical post. But when we look at the traction of real people versus bots on x.com it appears 81.7% of the engagements that 5th Column have analyzed are flagged as potentially bots. This means that it likely that the real number of people engaging with his x.com post is 26 humans - a similar number to his Facebook post.
Why we track Division and Anger
Divisive campaigns that incite anger and splinter groups away from each other in a sowing of 'khaos' way are hallmarks of Russia's information warfare strategy. Russia goals to sow discord, increase division and cause 'khaos" are to ultimately cause more division within society and a loss of trust in the results of elections. We warned the Australian Senate about this and are monitoring for it.
What is 5th Column
The 5th Column platform is an is an artificial intelligence that detects bots or inauthentic accounts on social media. It is designed to track advertising fraud where up to 32% of digital spend is lost. It will be operational during the Voice Referendum. It was originally developed in 2021 when the Pentagon was attacked on social media by the Russian made SANA botnet during the Myanmar coup.
The 5th Column algorithm utilizes a scoring system to determine whether a user is a human, a bot, or falls into the ambiguous gray area. A score of 0 indicates a high probability of the user being a human, while a score of 1 suggests a high likelihood of the user being a bot.
If an account is regularly engaging with bots then their score may tend to be high even if they are actually a human.
What is our position?
Internet 2.0 does not have a stated political position as we see ourselves as bipartisan. We have not been paid by any political party or campaign. We are pro-democracy.
We suggest social media companies should remove bots and monitor for CIB. We suggest people should have to verify they are a citizen of the country they are actively engaging in the political debate of.