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When KGB-style Active Measures arrive on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube
2014-02-06

I learned this week that Bashar Assad booster Sharmine Narwani and the Huffington Post had parted ways.

As an exercise, I ran her social network against those of people I have previously encountered in contexts of interest. The result is seen here. All relationships are reciprocal, and the ties are mostly of the bridging-weak type - the kind that facilitate the movement of information and ideas between networks.

NarwaniNet
click to view or download vector PDF of graph

Oriented towards...

They are grouped by orientation, as best as that can be ascertained based on social media profiles, public statements, and observable relationships. Orientation includes an ideological element, but there is more to it than that. As noted below, orientation does not necessarily correspond to geolocation, i.e. an orientation of 'Russia' doesn't mean the individual is either Russian or in Russia.

Russia: Oriented towards Russia, typically coming from a communist political background, and generally exhibiting a nostalgia for the Soviet Union. While some are in Russia, most are not, though they may travel there from time to time. Neither are they Russian. A few are confirmed to be on the Kremlin's payroll, some are likely left over from the networks of communist activists Russia inherited from the Soviet Union, and the rest are useful idiots.

Syria-Assad: Generally these folks identify as Syrian, and most live outside Syria. A few can be directly tied to Syrian state media, others may well be Syrian intelligence assets, and one or two are tied to the Assad regime via the SEA. The rest are volunteers looking to help out the folks back home in their time of need.

Iran and Hizballah: This group ranges from employees of IRGC media outlets, to paid Basij militia members, to Hizballah supporters and members (but generally not combatants), and an interesting assortment of converts, some who now reside in Lebanon or Iran, and some who returned to their point of origin after a period of indoctrination.

US/EU Wingnut: These are people who cannot be readily categorized by orientation. One thing they have in common is their view of Russian, Iranian, and Syrian state media outlets as sources of real news, the true truth.

What you see here is kind of snapshot of multiple inter-linked social networks that underlie various forms of online activism. While each sub-net has their own primary focus, there is a commonality of interests and a willingness on the part of each to help the others with their issues. The agendas being pursued correspond to policies and interests of the Kremlin. The entire operation is too focused for this to be a coincidence. In fact, the best framework for understanding these networks is that of Active Measures, as practiced by the KGB.

~ @webradius

© 2014-2015 Andrew Aaron Weisburd