Influence operations are a complex threat, and the community combating them—academics, social platforms, think tanks, governments—is broad. The goal of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations (PCIO) is to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats in the information environment. Key roadblocks as found in our work include the lack of: transparency reporting to inform what data is available for research purposes; rules guiding how data can be shared with researchers and for what purposes; and an international mechanism for fostering research collaboration at-scale.
The field researching and countering influence operations is growing. PCIO’s baseline research seeks to provide a common foundation on fundamental questions, including:
Our Influence Operations Researchers’ Guild aims to build an international community of investigators, working with them to articulate standards and shared principles for their work.
Membership in the Guild conveys a high standard of investigatory quality recognized by other experts in this field. Applications for membership are evaluated by an external review committee, and members commit to principles including accuracy in investigatory methods, ethical approaches to the collection and storage of personal data, a spirit of collaboration within the community, and the promotion of a diverse field of researchers.
Learn more about the Guild’s work and application process.
Evidence-based policymaking depends on measurements. But we lack robust, evidence-based measurements of influence operations’ spread, their effects, and the effectiveness of countermeasures needed to support community resilience and appropriate policy interventions.
To address this gap, PCIO and the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University convened three working groups with more than 40 researchers from North America, Europe, and Latin America, producing six studies. The project culminated in a Measurements Symposium with more than 60 participants from across the research community, government, and philanthropies.
Digital platforms control their data and researchers struggle to access it for research purposes. Even when data is available, the relationship between industry and researchers is imbalanced. PCIO is working with a multi-stakeholder community to develop a comprehensive transparency reporting framework, including policy ideas for regulators, to ensure independence for researchers. We do this through:
The range of practical ideas offered by respondents suggests a broad interest in tackling these implementation challenges. But respondents’ ideas often lacked detail and sometimes conflicted with each other, indicating that community dialogue about best practices remains at an early stage.
Authoritarian governments are leading the push at the UN to develop international norms. Democracies should deploy existing UN codes to provide alternatives.
They should take a page from Putin’s own playbook.
Despite the shared nature of these challenges, investigators in the Global South face the greatest shortfalls of capacity, funding, attention, and other support. And those in unstable or authoritarian countries face unique threats to their safety and freedom.
Research shows that fact-checking can reduce the harmful impacts of false information. But beyond that, we know relatively little about the efficacy of counter-influence measures being implemented or considered by platforms, governments, and civil society.
As cybersecurity threats grow, democracies should avoid borrowing the authoritarians’ playbook. Here’s what democracies need in developing a cyber strategy of their own.
The partnership takes a multi-stakeholder approach to solving complex problems, which starts with fostering community. We have engaged hundreds of stakeholders around the world and continue to grow a network of influence operations investigators through our Guild. Additionally, each month the PCIO and Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy convene a brainstorming session called “The Sphere of Influence,” drawing on a community of more than 80 participants.
PCIO has convened an advisory group of leading experts from industry, media, academia, and civil society to complement Carnegie’s global network of researchers. Advisory group members participate in their individual capacities and provide strategic advice in the development of new projects and publications. Learn More >
PCIO has also established institutional partnerships to promote international, cross-sectoral consensus on key issues. Our partner organizations have designated liaisons to support our work and are invited to participate in relevant projects on a case-by-case basis. Learn More >
Carnegie’s Partnership for Countering Influence Operations is grateful for funding provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and WhatsApp. The PCIO is wholly and solely responsible for the contents of its products, written or otherwise. We welcome conversations with new donors. All donations are subject to Carnegie’s donor policy review. We do not allow donors prior approval of drafts, influence on selection of project participants, or any influence over the findings and recommendations of work they may support.