Reports

January 9, 2018  |  Updated June 8, 2018

Online Information Laundering: The Role of Social Media

By Bret Schafer and Kirill Meleshevich

Revelations that the Kremlin exploited social networking tools to disseminate and promote divisive content in the United States and Europe have highlighted the role of those platforms in the proliferation of disinformation. While a great deal of attention has been given to both the creators and consumers of disinformation, far less focus has been paid to how disinformation spreads from questionable to credible sources online.

In order for social media companies to combat the misuse of their platforms by state and nonstate actors, it is important to recognize how the online information space operates and what tactics are used by those exploiting it. Operational similarities between the placement and spread of disinformation online and the laundering of illgotten financial gains can provide useful insights for analysts and policymakers. By understanding those similarities, governments and the tech sector can fight disinformation by considering many of the techniques honed by anti-money laundering practitioners.

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