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

Cover of the Executive Summary
Click here to download the Executive 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 CREST project studying how a series of soft facts communicated on social media in the aftermath of four terrorist attacks that took place in 2017, functioned to influence public perceptions and understandings of the causes and consequences of these events.

Social media data was collected and analysed in the aftermath of four terror attacks that took place in the UK in 2017, to explore how various rumours, conspiracy theories, propaganda and fake news shaped social reactions to these incidents.

For the purposes of the analysis they collectively define these informational forms as soft facts. Where hard facts are objective and stable, soft facts are malleable and contested.

Where hard facts are objective and stable, soft facts are malleable and contested.

They are an important feature of the contemporary media ecosystem, especially in moments of emergency and crisis when people are highly influenceable.

The principal output of this analysis is the conceptualisation of eight ‘techniques of disinformation’. Individually and collectively these are designed to capture key methods in terms of how misleadingly influential communications are constructed and communicated:

  1. Seeding
  2. Denial of Credibility
  3. Event Ghosting
  4. Emulsifying
  5. Infiltrating and Inciting
  6. Spoofing
  7. Truthing
  8. Social Proofing

Read, download, and share the Executive Summary: ‘Soft Facts’ (Summary)

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Russian twitter accounts influencing UK debate following terror attacks

The Executive Summary is taken from the Full Report. You can find the Full Report at crestresearch.ac.uk/resources/soft-facts-full-report

For further reading on this topic, see Martin Innes’ article Russian Influence And Interference On Twitter Following The 2017 UK Terrorist Attacks in CREST Security Review, Issue 7: Transitions.

There is also a Policy Brief which details how independent analysis has identified systematic use of fake social media accounts, linked to Russia, amplifying the public impacts of four terrorist attacks that took place in the UK in 2017. You can download, read, and share the four-page brief at crestresearch.ac.uk/resources/russian-influence-uk-terrorist-attacks

You can also read his published journal article: Innes, M. 2020. Techniques of disinformation: Constructing and communicating ‘soft facts’ after terrorismBritish Journal of Sociology (10.1111/1468-4446.12735)

These resources are produced from the ‘Soft Facts And Digital Behavioural Influencing’  project, funded by CREST. To find out more information about this programme, and to see other outputs from the team, visit the Soft Facts And Digital Behavioural Influencing project page.


As part of CREST’s commitment to open access research, these resources are available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence. For more details on how you can use our content see here.