April 7, 2020

WEBINAR: Confronting the Threat from Pandemic Disinformation – What Law Enforcement Needs to Know

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Webinar Outline

April 7th, 2020

1:00pm – 3:00pm ET


1:00-1:05pm – Welcome and Introductions

John Farmer – Director, Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics

Paul Goldenberg – Senior Fellow, Rutgers Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience and Member of US Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council

Brian Dorow – Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, DHS

1:05-1:10pm – NJ OHSP

Jared Maples – Director, NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness

1:10-1:25pm – A Framework for False Information

Graham Brookie – Director and Managing Editor, Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) In parallel to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we’re facing what the World Health Organization referred to in February as an infodemic, an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some inaccurate – that makes it more difficult for the public to seek or receive reliable and trusted sources of information. Misinformation, disinformation, and misleading information is a catalytic vulnerability that makes fulfilling the mission of public safety organizations harder. This session provides a framework to operationalize the public safety response to an infodemic.

1:25-1:40pm – COVID-19 Cyber Threats

Krista Valenzuela – Sr. Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst from the NJCCIC.

Almost every day, new cyber threats are revealed that exploit public concern over COVID-19, from malicious emails and compromised sites to various scams. This module will provide attendees with an overview of the evolving COVID-19 cyber threat landscape as well as best practices for mitigating risks associated with these threats.

1:40-1:55pm – COVID-19 Disinformation/Foreign Influence

Jerry Martin – Intelligence Analyst, Intelligence and Operations Division, NJOHSP.

The ongoing disinformation being pushed out by adversarial foreign state actors on social media is intended to sow discontent and add confusion to an already uncertain situation.  This module will focus on the impact to local law enforcement and offer ways to overcome the disinformation campaign being waged against our society.

1:55-2:20pm – Disinformation in Today’s Policing

Lt. Glen Mills – Burlington, Massachusetts Police Department

Past, present and future of misinformation and disinformation.  Lt. Mills will cover some recent examples and provide resources and recommendations for mitigating the negative impact on agencies’ jurisdictions.

2:20-2:30pm – Proliferation of Disinformation

Dr. Joel Finkelstein – Director, Network Contagion Research Institute

Using machine learning and AI at a massive scale, we review new strategies of disinformation warfare across social media by digital mobs and state actors.  Highlighted will be new tools, approaches and structures to combat the disinformation outbreak as it relates to the coronavirus.

2:30-2:40pm – State and Local Outreach Efforts

Peter Brady – Senior Planner NJOHSP Risk Management and Brendan Liston, NJSP

Mr. Brady and Mr. Liston will discuss the collaborative outreach and coordination efforts undertaken by state agencies to build or enhance local and county law enforcement as well as private sector resources in response to the pandemic.

2:40-2:55pm – Q & A


In today’s information milieu, the way our citizens view facts, define certainty, and classify information previously shared through print, the town square, or landline no longer applies nor adheres to traditional rules. These fundamental changes have made it easier for domestic and foreign threat actors to exploit, replace and amplify vital information for the sole purpose to sow discord, push foreign nations’ policy agendas, cause panic and ultimately undermine confidence and public trust in the core institutions of our democracy.  As the Coronavirus Pandemic intensifies it will create a new, broader and potentially perilous disinformation environment stirring in its wake distrust, deception, and calls for violence. Extremist groups, including white supremacists, are now pointing to ‘theories’ and works of fiction to motivate individuals to take violent action. As disinformation grows law enforcement will be called upon to react to disinformation in more informed and effective ways.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen the proliferation of significant quantities of news, myths, and disinformation – emanating from various sources both within and outside North America. According to a recent DHS Intelligence communication shared nationwide with law enforcement agencies last week, violent extremists and other bad actors may seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets, and promote radical ideologies, and they believe these efforts will intensify in the coming months. Just last week a New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness review found that the velocity of disinformation being transmitted is not dissimilar to the viral contagion itself, notably, amongst a growing number of private groups, cells, and online communities.

While news about the virus continues to play out differently depending on what social media outlets the general public follows- the challenge [of preventing disinformation] becomes compounded when some begin to lose trust in official sources. On Twitter, a single fame-seeker can now send the entire of New York city reeling into shock with a single post in the face of the COVID-19 media environment. A recent tweet for instance, warning of impending and severe quarantine restrictions obtained hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.  Law makers and law enforcement quickly managed the ensuing alarm on social media. Nevertheless, the episode demonstrated the value of monitoring and crafting a real time response and impact on public safety and hometown security.

As most law enforcement leaders desire to work more transparently and make every effort to identify disinformation spread by local, domestic and foreign actors and rapidly deflate these messages before they can “go viral” and engrain themselves into the minds of the community, they need to learn more about the methods, best practices and opportunities that will allow them utilize social media as double-edged sword: using Twitter and other platforms to counter and quickly refute the messaging.

Little has been published concerning the effect disinformation may have on public safety, notably during these unparalleled times where information has become the lifeblood for citizens and whole communities sheltering in place. Law enforcement leaders are taking note of these concerns and asking how disinformation campaigns will impact their community and what can chief law enforcement leaders do to thwart these messages. The sheer amount of information on the outbreak means that government and community leaders need to take specific actions to ensure that their citizens and employees receive important, credible information.

Join us on April 7th for an informational webinar that focuses on case studies of recent disinformation campaigns, tools and best practices to effectively identify disinformation and examples for how to provide a counter narrative to mitigate impact on your jurisdictions. We will also discuss how to increase your investment in “open-source” intelligence gathering, suggesting combing and analyzing what’s available to anyone—such as the internet. Additionally, the forum will provide advice for having either you as chief law enforcement officer or your spokespersons navigate through and/or expose falsities and methodologies for countering the narrative. That which includes uncovering and exposing publicly disinformation being spread by adversaries and sources touting them—this is and remains a public-facing role that is extraordinary but vital in the modern era of influence campaigns