Soft Facts and Digital Behavioural Influencing

This study examines how ‘soft facts’ (rumours / conspiracy theories / ideological propaganda / false news) attached to security events influence individual and collective behaviours, and what are the most effective countermeasures for managing their consequences.

Soft facts are pliable and malleable communications that can be counterposed with hard facts, and are information whose provenance, authority and validity is uncertain or challengeable. The analysis attends, in particular, to how soft facts steer and shape perceptions and experiences of security at individual, group and institutional levels, in both online and offline settings. In addition, it assesses the efficacy of both formal and more informal interventions to manage and mitigate any negative social impacts associated with their communication.

Informed by empirical data derived from social media materials collected by the project team since 2013, the research utilises a comparative case study design. The available datasets comprise extensive and rich material on social reactions to several terrorist attacks across Europe and other materials where police and other security actors have sought to manage crime rumours, propaganda, conspiracy theories and false news.

This focus reflects a growing awareness and concern amongst policymakers and practitioners about how the community impacts of terrorism and other major crime events, are frequently amplified as a result of rumours, deliberately generated false news and conspiracy theories. There is interest also in how such effects can be countered through deploying artfully constructed counternarratives.

Project findings will be of interest to scholars and practitioners with expertise in the security domain, where it has been increasingly recognised how rumours and other forms of soft fact can have a material influence upon security situations. In addition, there is likely to be a wider constituency of interest following the Brexit referendum and US Presidential election campaigns. However, typically such discussions rely upon isolated or cherry-picked instances. The particular contribution that this study makes is in interrogating these issues through a systematic and structured, conceptually informed framework, to generate new empirical evidence and insight.

Principal Investigator

Professor Martin Innes

Institution

Crime and Security Research Institute, Cardiff University
Universities Police Science Institute, Cardiff University

People

Outputs

Soft Facts and Digital Behavioural Influencing After the 2017 Terror Attacks (Summary)

This Executive Summary gives an overview of the eight techniques of disinformation and types of ‘soft facts’. The document summaries research findings from a...Read More »

Soft Facts and Digital Behavioural Influencing After the 2017 Terror Attacks (Full Report)

This CREST report examines how ‘soft facts’ influence individual and collective behaviours, and what are the most effective counter-measures for managing their consequences. The...Read More »

Soft Facts and Digital Behavioural Influencing

CREST has published a report on how ‘soft facts’ influence individual and collective behaviours. The report, by Martin Innes, states findings from the research...Read More »

Techniques of disinformation: Constructing and communicating “soft facts” after terrorism

Informed by social media data collected following four terror attacks in the UK in 2017, this article delineates a series of “techniques of disinformation”...Read More »

Russian Influence And Interference On Twitter Following The 2017 UK Terrorist Attacks

Following the UK terror attacks in 2017, there was a systematic level of influence and interference by Russian-linked social media accounts trying to engineer...Read More »

Russian influence and interference measures following the 2017 UK terrorist attacks

The level of influence and interference by Russian-linked social media accounts trying to engineer social division in the UK is considerably more extensive than...Read More »