Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Online 5GW? Online 4GW?

Courtesy of DDDR this bit regarding Russian domestic counter intelligence:

The internet brigades (Russian: Веб-бригады) [1] [2] are real and alleged state-sponsored information warfare teams that conduct psychological operations on-line. Such teams may be affiliated with state propaganda departments, military, or secret police forces. They are said to disseminate disinformation and prevent free discussions of undesirable subjects in political blogs and internet forums by using cyberstalking, cyber-bullying and other psychological warfare methods against political bloggers.[3] Since the existence of internet brigades is often officially denied, such activities may be defined as "black", covert or false flag operations (or "active measures" according to Russian terminology).

The above wikipedia citation is likely to expire or be radically changed soon. The disclaimers that precede it promise as much. As such the rest of the entry can be found here. Comments?


Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Ah, I left a short comment on the other post, the one with more details.

I would say: This is definitely the beginning of concerted 5GW conflict. It goes beyond 4GW. However, it has been inept enough to be seen. I suppose one might say it is merely a conspiracy theory, but I suspect that it is not, simply because the advent of the Internet, which brings too much wealth and will be necessary to future economic growth and vitality for any nation, would also be 'played' this way first by those who fear freer communications. I.e., were I a teenager enamored with RPGs and wargaming, I would probably think of the tactic mentioned here first, given the advent of the Internet. What we have here is the institutionalization of the Internet, in countries who typically see every institution in hierarchical terms originating from the topmost level of government. They are approaching the Internet as if it were a factory, and I suspect they are in for rude awakenings.

Baron D. said...

Lucky you archived it before they eventually send it to the wiki solovki.

I like how the article lists the same behaviour characteristics that were written about in the studies of Soviet Disinformatsia in the late 80's/90's by bittman, godson et al. That is the anti-americanism/west (the main enemy), pro-communism etc.

It's like their MO has never changed [1].

I've been thinking about the epistemology of conspiracy for a couple of weeks now i.e How do you gather information on a conspiracy?

I came across a most excellent network theory paper written back in 93 from the American Sociological Review: Baker & Faulkner 'The social organization of conspiracy: illegal networks in the heavy electrical industry'. It posits that "the structure of illegal networks is driven primarily by the need to maximize concealment, rather than the need to maximize efficiency."

The paper also covers a section on what might be useful to your 'Dreaming 5GW paradox' curtis. That is, what happens to secretive networks that become "discovered" (as it what has happened with this Internet Brigades). A quote from page seven "When a secret society works properly, the larger society remains unaware of its existence. If a secret society is discovered and investigated, its organizational structure should offer protection by making it difficult to unravel the conspiracy. Various practices and organizational devices are used to protect a secret society. Members may conceal the secret society and their involvement in it by limiting face-to-face interaction. Leaders, for example, may be unknown to ordinary members. Members can increase protection by minimizing the channels of communication. Impersonal communication procedures and decision rules may be used as a substitute for direct personal communication and negotiation. Organizational buffers can seal off different levels or groups. For example, a graduated division of labour-hierarchy- may separate members of secret society. Top managers may approve or direct activities, but delegate implementation to lower level operatives. Decentralization or "compartmental insulation" limits exposure, making it difficult to uncover an entire network, particularly its leaders." If anyone wants a copy of the paper, just leave your email and I'll shoot you a copy.


1. AKA the Anatoliy Golitsyn hypothesis:

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Actually, having visited the Wikipedia article's discussion page, and tracking the activities of one of the would-be editors across various Wikipedia articles relating specifically to Russia, FSS, etc., it would appear that we might have a case-in-point.

Curtis Gale Weeks said...


I was commenting before your comment appeared!

Arherring approached a consideration of a Waterfall Model of 5GW, which would improve secrecy by separated different phases of the 5GW; lower levels would not necessarily know that what they are doing is connected to a larger goal, but would have other goals in mind. If they were detected, a "conspiracy" would be found, but it wouldn't be the real 5GW.

Baron D. said...

That waterfall model was interesting.

I wonder if how the 'vote for deletion' pans out has something to do with some quasi-cyber tactical 5gw (russians undermining the article) vs 4gw (guys who edit the wiki article) battle. This is me just talking out my ass here of course. Ruminating if you will.

Kinda like your thoughts on iniating 5gw: "Influence it to fight another force, one it already despises — and, preferably, one it cannot defeat. Or, introduce dispute within it, of the sort that would paralyze its activities, create massive amounts of in-fighting. Or, befriend it; give it real accomplishments (perhaps by surreptitiously influencing other parties who can give them these) which, nonetheless, lead to final outcomes quite different than it originally intended. Because a 4GW force tends to be decentralized, dependent on local actors and local activities, focus on influencing them. Do not try to destroy the 4GW force; focus on changing it."

That despisable force being "internet trolls" rather than calling them psyops. Creating disputes and paralysing through edit wars. Befriending through becoming wiki editors or persons of note on wikipedia etc. etc.

Baron D. said...

That sentence came out wrong.

I meant this "anti-article vs pro-article" edit war/vote for deletion shows similarities to your thoughts on initiating 5gw post particularly with 4gw vs 5gw.

Phil (Pacific Empire) said...

Something similar came up in the comments on this post about Chinese censorship at Pacific Empire. It definitely sounds like the Chinese employ - in addition to "internet police" - fulltime purveyors of disinformation, fake blogs and trollish comments. Maybe they're learning from the Russian 'net brigades.

Baron - great comments. Your note about the epistemology of conspiracy theories reminded me of this blog which I often read. Some good stuff there.

subadei said...

Given the paramount importance of secrecy regarding any successful 5GW initiative the Waterfall approach seems the most likely. While it lacks the dynamic propensity of 4GW it provides certain insurance against discovery. I wish I'd read it sooner as my biggest hang-up regarding 5GW is the necessity of secrecy despite the aspects of connectivity and influence.

Curtis/baron if you haven't followed Phils link you should. The charles liu character seems to be disinformation in action if Makina and Jenna are to be believed. And the evidence presented seems quite damning.

Intriguing and a bit creepy, Phil!

Baron, if you've got the time I'd like to read that paper. You can zing it on over to

Baron D. said...

phil, that link with the charles liu character is crazy.

I wonder if it is possible to build "honey pots" to gather online order of battle information i.e set up a fake message board or wiki that is counter to some groups ideology then watch the pro-ideologists come on in. You could gather technical information (IP addresses, email addresses, log in/off timings) and tactical information (names used, disinfo modus operandi). Then again due to the secrecy of the groups operating the information may be skewed or wrong. ALthough you might still get a "feel" for the information being propagated (the current state of the meme propagation, as curtis has talked about on his 5gw blog).

BTW that 'all embracing' blog is awesome.

Subadei, I'll shoot you that email in a sec with that paper. I also found a paper of a similar nature called 'Intelligence games: Comparing the Intelligence Capabilities of Law Enforcement Agencies and Drug Trafficking Enterprises' by Michael Kenney. It discusses the methods used to gather information on illict drug networks and the secretive drug networks reaction and counter-intelligence methods.

subadei said...

Thanks baron. I'll read them shortly.

Curtis Gale Weeks said...


The discussion here has made me reconsider Wikipedia in a 5GW framework. Given the extensive linking to Wikipedia items in blogs, as if Wikipedia is authoritative and offers the "true reality/knowledge", I suspect that the sort of edit wars you mention may be here to stay unless Wikipedia eventually alters its open-source framework. (That would be funny. Say, a certain number of years from now, when nearly all that can be included in the encyclopedia has been included, Wikipedia gives its thanks to users and announces it will no longer be open-source editable but will seek expert and scholarly opinions on refining and editing the entries....)

I.e., given the very nature of Wikipedia, it will be a hotbed of 5GW activity, perhaps. Maybe even more than Google searches; maybe not.

I very much like your idea about creating honey pots. Especially in early & inept attempts at 5GW, they'd be helpful and provide a lot of good info; but I suspect that even as 5GW matures they'll still be very important. I.e., with more proficient 5GW players/groups, none will really know for certain what is real and what is a honey pot, yet each may still need to address the things put on such forums in order to address the memetic drift. Hmmmm....

Shoot me those emails too:

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

On second thought, those honey pots could be used in a way similar to methods for determining demographics...but rather, for mapping the memosphere, or meme-based-networks, and it might not matter whether the participants are other 5GWarriors or simple passersby who are interested in the debates.

Baron D. said...

Curtis I shot you off those emails.

Yeah it'd be interesting to study wikipedia and map the ideological battles that take place. Perhaps the ideological battles that take place on the worlds largest encyclopedia (and the multiple languages on there) mirror the real world.

I haven't looked at it long enough to see the reaction timing of wiki-users to world events, but perhaps it also acts as a futures markets, of sorts, in ideas.