Developing the Disinformation Database

I would like to create a database of tactics used to spread disinformation. I think this will be useful for people who want to learn about the ways they are being manipulated online. The problem is, this is quite a big task. One of the ways I’m making this big task easier is by breaking it into little stages, and on this page I’m detailing what those stages are. I think this transparency is useful to set expectations about “What is DDB now” and “What will DDB be in the future”. It also helps see how much has already been accomplished, which is nice for me when I get panicked about how much there is still left to do.

Lets start with something fun; what I’d like DDB to be when it’s all grown up.

Right now we learn about ways people have conducted disinformation campaigns in the past, and write about those tactics. One day we’ll be able to look at a brand new disinformation campaign as it is being conducted, recognise the tactics being used and refer to DDB’s Tactic Profiles to see how we can reduce the probability that the manipulator successfully manipulates. By using real-world data from past campaigns, people will be able to come to DDB to learn about how they are likely to be targeted, or about tactics used by Personas they’re concerned about (e.g. Corporations, Domestic or Foreign Governments).

This is stage “X” because I don’t really know how many stages it will take us to get there, or even if this will remain DDB’s end goal forever! Part of the transparency I talked about earlier is acknowledging that as we learn more about disinformation we may realise there are better ways to help stop it. But with this as our current “guiding light”, we’ll no doubt end on a good path.

DDB is currently on its second stage of its journey. At this point we’ve decided creating Tactic Profiles is a good idea (for reasons you can read about here), and as such we want to start making them!

The plan is to create a load of basic profiles for Tactics (with a summary of the tactic and links to further reading). I think that going “wide and shallow” with Profiles at the start will give me more experience about what works and doesn’t work, what’s possible, and where to go next.

To that end, Stage 2’s goals are:

  1. Have 40 total Tactic Profiles by 01 June 2022
    • Today is 20 Feb 2022. There are four existing profiles, which means I have ~14 weeks to create 36 profiles, at a pace of just under three per week. I’ve left myself some wiggle room incase I run into problems, or want to do some non-tactic related improvements to DDB.
    • I’d like to try to create a wide variety of Profile types, so I’ll have a soft goal of a close-to equal number of Profiles for each stage of the Disinformation Cycle
  2. Figure out Stage 3 by 14 June 2022
    • I expect I’ll chip away at this throughout the time I’m making profiles, but I need to know what’s next! Some ideas I have are:
      • Deeper profiles, have something I consider “finished” to see if it’s any good.
      • Work on Persona profiles
      • Figure out ways to empirically test the effectiveness of these profiles
  3. Check in on whether Stage X is still the “guiding light” for where DDB is headed by 14 June 2022
    • Making lots of shallow profiles is an attempt to learn the most I can about whether Stage X is a good idea in a short period of time. I should note down what I think’s working, and what isn’t. I should check in to see if I need to make any changes to Stage X based on that.
  4. Just get it done!
    1. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and this gets in my own way. I want to embrace the idea that something good and done is better than something perfect that’s never finished, and this is going to be especially important if I am going to make three profiles a week. Little imperfections are OK; failing to meet the 40 profile goal is not. To start me off on the right foot, I’m going to leave this bullet point as a numbered list, even though it bugs me and should be fixed. That’s the spirit!

In the future, I will write more about Stage 1, and ideas for later stages. For now, it’s enough to know that Stage 1 was basically “Read loads about Disinformation, archive and tag what I’ve read, and write some stuff of my own“.