Cross-platform Information Operations: Mobilizing Narratives & Building Resilience through both 'Big' & 'Alt' Tech
Despite increasing awareness and research about online strategic information operations, there remain gaps in our understanding, including how information operations leverage the wider information ecosystem and take shape on and across multiple social media platforms. In this paper we use mixed methods, including digital trace ethnography, to look beyond a single social media platform to the broader information ecosystem. We aim to understand how multiple social media platforms are used, in parallel and complementary ways, to achieve the strategic goals of online information operations. We focus on a specific case study: the contested online conversation surrounding Syria Civil Defense (the White Helmets), a group of first responders that assists civilians affected by the civil war within the country. Our findings reveal a network of social media platforms from which content is produced, stored, and integrated into the Twitter conversation. We highlight specific activities that sustain the strategic narratives and attempt to influence the media agenda. And we note that underpinning these efforts is the work of resilience-building: the use of alternative (non-mainstream) platforms to counter perceived threats of 'censorship' by large, established social media platforms. We end by discussing the implications on social media platform policy.