Module 3: Case Study on Intelligence in a Globally Interconnected Society

    Module 3: Case Study on Intelligence in a Globally Interconnected Society

    The Facebook Entanglement, A Failure of Imagination?

    Discussion Board February 24, 2020 March 11, 2020

    During the previous two modules, we explored the traditional concepts of national intelligence collection and sharing (Module 1) and we looked at how we may need to broaden our collection and sharing considerations due to the dynamic influence of digital technology (Module 2).

    In Module 3, we will take a deep dive into the activities of social media giant, Facebook and explore how impactful digital technology can be when it is used by Nation States or other hostile actors to both collect intelligence, as well as use it as a platform to influence policies and communities.

    As you explore the Facebook story, consider how well prepared we are in meeting intelligence challenges conducted through social media.  Is there effective government oversight, or is social media allowing information to be weaponized  (or cause upheaval) against the U.S. and other countries?

    Review the Facebook activity both before, during and after revelations of how the company was being used by the Russian government.  Consider Facebooks initial response and if delays in making changes to operations at the company may have an impact on the U.S. in the future (Anticipatory Intelligence).

    C.  Lets begin by assessing what happened, why did it happen (for example, a failure of imagination on our part for not anticipating how Facebook could be used?), how it was allowed to continue through a process of delays, denial and deflection (perhaps a lack of internal governance or insufficient regulatory oversight?) and explore the breadth of the impact (is there more to come?).


    Assess the impact and influence on U.S. politics and communities (Intelligence and Social/Political Influencing)

    Assess the impact and influence on U.S. business (Intelligence and economic/business influencing)
    Evaluate the ability of Facebook to initially cover-up internal issues and later undermine activities of anti-Facebook groups

    D.  Consider political influencing committed through Facebook that may have impacted social unrest in Myanmar and efforts of Iranian trolls to impact the U.S.


    E.  In Security Management magazine, January, 2019, a member of the editorial staff, Megan Gates, explored The Privacy Problem and the need to create stronger privacy regulations to protect users and their data.  In the article, Gates also looked back at the role Facebook played in Myanmars social unrest and she described how Facebook is now independently taking efforts to build their own governance and accountability and improve enforcement of content policies because there is no current regulatory framework or legal guidance requiring such action.

    Consider Megan Gates remarks in light of the activities of Facebook.  Are global social media and digital technology giants today too powerful to control?
    Considering how social media can be used as intelligence tools for hostile state actors, should these giants be left to self-governance or is there a need for comprehensive U.S. regulatory guidance?
    Required Reading


    When we look back at the nation state manipulations and the privacy data access concerns involving the social media giant, Facebook, we can glean from the articles and research that there were several instances when questionable activity was brought to the attention of the company’s leadership, yet the problems persisted.  During our discussion board in Module 1, our colleague Pamela Reininger commented that private industry, “…needs to be encouraged and aided in developing the most sophisticated detection systems and there has to be a robust interchange of information between the US and private business.”  Given Facebooks’ response after detecting intelligence and privacy issues, should such a public/private exchange be mandatory and regulated by the government?  Would effective government intelligence collection and sharing requirements have reduced the negative influences that occurred through Facebook?

    Please cite articles from above in buttressing your argument.

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