Get Ahead of Disinformation with Active Monitoring

Case Study 7 min
Active monitoring and proactive messaging are powerful tools that can be used in social media or public affairs by anyone. Learn how the Air Force Bomber Task Force uses these tools to stop disinformation before it has a chance to start.

The U.S. Air Force's Bomber Task Force is a strategic mission designed to showcase the United States' ability to support its allies and partners even in unfamiliar locations. It demonstrates the reach and capabilities of the U.S. Air Force to assure allies and deter any potential aggressors.

As part of the BTF, bomber squadrons periodically deploy to a forward operating location to conduct training exercises with partner nations. In order to keep the operational element a surprise, the locations of these missions are not publicly revealed until the squadron arrives at its deployment destination.

When these Bomber Task Force deployments began, little was reported or posted from the Air Force regarding the missions, immediately after the squadron's arrival. Due to operational security, the deployed public affairs teams were limited in what information could be released and when.

Upon arrival and the start of visible activity, potential adversary and near-peer nations would begin flooding the information environment with content supporting their own agendas to monopolize the information environment. Near-peer nations are those that have military infrastructures, capabilities and armaments nearest to that of the United States.

Portugal: Active Monitoring on the Defense

When a B-2 Spirit BTF arrived in Portugal in March 2021, adversarial states immediately began pushing stories about their own stealth technologies. Their messaging attempted to short sell the United States' capabilities and promote their own.

These adversarial messaging trends were discovered using active monitoring of the information environment. Active monitoring is utilizing software to scan social media platforms and the internet for particular phrases. The BTF utilized tools such as Critical Mention and Meltwater for their active monitoring.

PAOs involved in the Portugal deployment found themselves primarily on the defensive, responding to adversarial messages more than creating their own story. They used active monitoring to discover what was being said and knew what messaging needed to be countered. It was an effective tool in keeping them informed and responding appropriately.

Australia: Improving the Strategy

The lessons learned in Portugal led to some changes in how the B-2 BTF communicated during their Australian deployment in July 2022. They knew active monitoring worked and would continue to be a valuable tool, but they also wanted to get their messaging out first rather than just responding to the messaging of other nations. So, that's what they did.

As soon as the B-2 Bombers' presence was announced, the Air Force began releasing their own positive social media messages. Since they were able to strike first, they could continue to promote their own message rather than spending most of their time countering disinformation from adversaries.

The below examples showcase the proactive BTF Facebook messages being posted and shared.

The team utilized the research, planning, implementation and evaluation process. Through the research phase of RPIE, and through continued active monitoring, they discovered an uptick in H-20 (Chinese aircraft), TU-160 (Russian aircraft) and anti-stealth mentions. Adding those keywords into the search showed a trend of increased talking points by other nations attempting to counter U.S. messages by highlighting their own advances. This time, the potential adversaries and near peers were the ones on the defensive, spending time trying to counter the positive messaging of the United States. This is outlined in the Media Results BTF Aug 2022 Summary report, which you can download below.

Download Report (PDF) 


Lessons Learned

Public Affairs Officers working on the B-2 BTF learned many valuable lessons and implemented processes that can be utilized by others in the fleet, field and beyond.

  • Perform active monitoring pulls at least two weeks prior to a public affairs campaign to understand the information space being entered.
  • Perform active monitoring pulls 48 hours after large products are published to understand how messages are being interpreted and to determine if messaging tactics need to be adjusted.
  • Perform weekly active monitoring pulls to see if, how and when competitors are reacting to messages, which gives an opportunity to adjust tactics to combat disinformation, misinformation or malinformation.
  • Iteratively tweak active monitoring searches by adding trending terms into the search as needed.
  • Standardize the production schedule as much as possible, planning and coordinating with the appropriate commands to establish coordinating messaging and releases to ensure a wider reach.
  • Prewrite, coordinate and template out video features to ensure the quickest and best products can be delivered once you become operational.
  • Create proactive messaging to get communications out first to control the information environment and force others to respond instead of being forced into the role of responding.

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