How do you measure influence operations?

13.10.2020

In September, Ben Nimmo, the former head of DFRLab and a long time expert in Influence activity and information operations, published an article on a new method for investigating influencing operations, “The Breakout Scale: Measuring the Impact of Influence Operations.”

The new method, developed by Ben Nimmo, who is also the author of the 4D misinformation analysing model, focuses on assessing the impact of information operations, shifting the focus to environments and measuring breakouts to the general public.

The creators of the information operations recognize that measuring the spread of an influence activity campaign is a complex task that requires very careful research and proper setup. However, external measurement of the effectiveness of influence operations is many times more difficult because the raw data of the analysis are often non-existent or incomplete.

The method developed by Nimmo is based on a comparative model for measuring information operations, which is based on public information and can be imitated and verified from the moment it is published.

The Ben Nimmo Breakout Scale consists of six categories based on the number of information dissemination environments and target groups, and monitors the breakout of the message to the public.

The first category includes single-platform influence activity campaigns. This campaign has no public breakout and is limited to one community.

The second category includes influence activity that takes place on one or more platforms but does not achieve a breakout and does not move into a larger number of communities.

The third category includes influence activity, which takes place simultaneously on several platforms and communities and achieves a certain breakout, but does not spread to mass media channels.

The fourth category includes influence activities, which break out of small or social media platforms into mainstream mass media and gain considerable attention there.

The prerequisite for falling into the fifth category is that the influence activity is amplified by well-known personalities or public figures who give the message additional credibility and amplification.

Influence campaigns in the sixth category, breakout through the sphere of policy-makers, provoke clear reactions in society or if it includes a call for violence on the “streets”.

One of the last of the influence activity campaigns organized towards Estonia, which talked about boat refugees, can be considered a first-level effort. However, the information operation launched at the beginning of the year, the reason for which was the suspension of Sputnik’s activities in Estonia, can certainly be considered a sixth category activity, as it had a wide media coverage, support from public figures as well as policy makers.

The model created by Nimmo is still new, but it is expected to become as popular as the 4D model.

Photos: Cheryl / Flickr / CC and screenshot of the method description