Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Air Force Combats Disinformation


This U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command project is using Artificial Intelligence software (represented by Robbie the Robot) and a neural network created by Primer to ferret-out and combat disinformation.

This U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command project is using Artificial Intelligence software (represented by Robbie the Robot) and a neural network created by Primer to ferret-out and combat disinformation.

Everyone knows that the U.S. spends more on military than any other nation in the world — $934 billion this year alone. More than half of FY 2019 discretionary spending went for “national defense”. Of course, we all also know that the nearly $1 trillion is not all the bucks devoted to our overseas, military-like escapades. There’s another astronomically jigumbus, super-secret hoard of greenbacks called the “black budget”. Nobody knows, or will say, at least, how much is in that one — or what we are buying with it.

Unbelievably, in all the years, at least since WWII, the Defense Department has never – as in, not onetime – passed an accounting audit of all that treasure spending. Even the recent attempted audit is ladened with trillions of dollars in mind-boggling “plugs” or get-arounds” rather than a report of where and how many tax dollars were budgeted and expended. The”plugs” are inserted in the “audit report” to acknowledge that the auditors have no verifiable idea where or for what our tax money was dispensed.

One thing is for certain, for years, we have spent like drunken sailors, only to wake up once in a while and wonder why our pockets are empty.

Anyway…. moving to the subject of this post…

Among the baskets of dough we’ve been putting out through the U.S. Department of Defense is one marked: new technology research. That one costs us about $107 billion and funds a bunch of interesting projects, including the one to, “…train a neural net to rank credibility and sort news from misinformation”, under control of the Air Force and the U.S. Special Operations Command. Basically, our military has realized it needs a new software/Artificial Intelligence(AI) tool to counter disinformation created by our “adversaries” and spread about through social media and old-fashioned media, e.g. TV news. 

My, we surely could use Primer's help through this current election…

This quote from the article:

“Sean Gourley, Primer’s founder and CEO, described how the cost of using disinformation is relatively low for authoritarian regimes that aren’t accountable to voters or democratic allies when they lie. Couple that with how quick and easy it is to produce and spread disinformation online and you run into a big problem for which the U.S. and other militaries from democratic countries have little defense. “Information attacks are cheaper to carry out than identity. There’s an asymmetry here. It’s much like an IED explosion. You can put it down very cheaply but the cost of defending against it is very high.” he said. “This is not something that’s going to be solved by humans… You're bringing a knife to a gunfight if you’re going to bring humans to this problem.” 

Here’s the story…

Can AI Detect Disinformation? A New Special Operations Program May Find Out, Patrick Tucker,, 2 Oct 2020.

“Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command fund year-long effort to train a neural net to rank credibility and sort news from misinformation.”

“For all the U.S. military’s technical advantages over adversaries, it still struggles to counter disinformation. A new software tool to be developed for the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, may help change that.”

“If you don’t compete in the information space, regardless of how good your operations are, your activities are, you will probably eat a shit sandwich of disinformation or false reporting later on,” Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former SOCOM chief, said in an interview.  “We certainly experienced that at the tactical level. That was the epiphany where we would have good raids, good strikes, etc. and the bad guys would spin it so fast that we would be eating collateral damage claims, etc. So, the information space in that very tactical space is key.”

“It even “stretches to the strategic space,” said Thomas, meaning that disinformation can spread until it affects larger geopolitical realities.”

“Thomas now serves as an advisory board member for Primer, a company that on Thursday announced a Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop software over the next year to help analysts better—and much more quickly—survey the information landscape and hopefully detect false narratives that show up in the public space.”

“Primer’s neural network technology can scan large amounts of text and extract themes and other information based on the frequency and prominence of words and phrases. It’s the sort of thing that can be very useful if you have a lot of text you want to very quickly summarize in an accurate headline, a capability they demonstrate here. To train their headline-writing neural net, they used a corpus “of millions of publicly available document-title pairs: news articles and headlines” according to their paper on the subject.”


Additional posts about truth finding…

TruthTeller App! Now here’s another reason for optimism!, Ron Baker, DownriverUSA, 2 Feb 2013.

Doubting Thomas App, Ron Baker, DownriverUSA, 16 Feb 2019.

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