How State’s Disinformation-Fighting Arm Uses Artificial Intelligence

How State’s Disinformation-Fighting Arm Uses Artificial Intelligence

Emerging technologies—and partnerships promoting their use—have proven instrumental for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, a hub that steers federal efforts to counter state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining the U.S. 


“Artificial intelligence and the tools that it offers are really helping us to understand what's happening in the environment, and to identify coordinated activity,” the GEC’s Acting Coordinator Daniel Kimmage said Thursday. “There's obviously a much broader range of activity across the State Department, but for us it's a powerful way to better understand what's happening in the environment, and identify coordinated activity.”


The center was mandated by Congress several years ago to help tackle challenges around diplomacy in the digital age. At an event hosted by Foreign Policy, Kimmage offered a glimpse into how technology is impacting and enabling GEC’s work, particularly as online disinformation campaigns led by U.S. adversaries grow in sophistication.


“We've got what you might describe as our traditional sources of information—we have the cables, our diplomatic colleagues out in the field. We have an analysis from our colleagues in the intelligence community, and we have a huge and growing ocean of open-source information,” he explained. “We can take that and use statistical methods, artificial intelligence and data processing to arrive at a better understanding.”


Among an array of resources in the center’s “AI Toolbox,” Kimmage said natural language processing, or essentially how computers understand and analyze human language, and topic modeling, which he deemed mathematical models for determining what a text is about, are particularly useful. “We take this and we generally produce open-source, unclas ..