Vulnerabilities in the Social Attack Surface
Lead PI:
John Symons

The defense of our nation depends on resilient social systems. From unit cohesion in military contexts to solidarity, trust, and cooperation in our communities, to professional norms and public spiritedness, American society thrives thanks to healthy and robust patterns of social life. We have preliminary evidence that the resilience of our social systems has been weakened, at least in part, by actions undertaken by our adversaries. This project takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how the information warfare targets social norms and institutions. The focus of this research is on the role of internet technologies and sophisticated forms of social hacking that targets critical social institutions via attacks on the social norms that are constitutive of those institutions. 

We hope to develop:

  • a new theoretical framework for understanding interventions via social media.
  • machine learning models for the study of cyber-based attacks on norms
  • tactics for the defense of critical social institutions
  • historical insight into the development of information warfare in the Soviet Union and Russia
John Symons

Dr. Symons is a professor of philosophy at KU and a member of The Academic Center for Biomedical and Health Humanities (HealthHum). His current work is centered in philosophy of technology with ties to formal epistemology, philosophy of psychology, and metaphysics of emergence.

As Director of the Center for Cyber-Social Dynamics, Dr. Symons engages in the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural study of the relationship between internet and data-driven technologies and society, politics, and culture in order to help our communities to mindfully and ethically shape technologies to promote human flourishing.

Institution: The University of Kansas
Sponsor: NSA