Future Information Warfare

This research theme seeks to map the disinformation and political warfare activities of great powers in key contested regions of the world, understand the impact of emerging information warfare capabilities on future conflict, and develop research products of relevance to the ADF and allied militaries. Key projects are listed below. 

Cyber Entanglement and Foreign Policy: Analysing US-China Interactions in Cyberspace

Karine Pontbriand is a PhD candidate who is researching on the phenomenon of 'cyber entanglement' and foreign policy. She uses the term 'cyber entanglement' to describe the entanglement of actors, in the information age, by hugely complex interdependent relationships involved in the information economy and society, which means that the cost of breaking them would be too high. This phenomenon increases mutual interests and dependencies between actors and has important implications for policy-making. Yet, the US strategic posture towards China in cyberspace has evolved in a manner that is not consistent with the reality of cyber entanglement. In this doctoral project, Karine investigates new theoretical and empirical insights to better frame the analysis of the impact of cyber entanglement on US-China relations. More specifically, she aims to analyse how great powers foreign policy needs to adjust to the revolutionary transformation of the information age. Her article on the topic of international collaboration for cybersecurity has recently appeared in the Journal of Information Warfare

Cyber-Humanitarian Interventions: Atrocity Prevention in the Digital Age

Rhiannon Neilsen is a PhD candidate who is researching on atrocity prevention and information warfare. Her doctoral thesis examines the use of ‘cyber-humanitarian interventions': cyber-operations designed to disrupt potential perpetrators’ means and motivations for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In her thesis, Rhiannon considers whether there is a case for using computational propaganda, disinformation, and “fake news” for atrocity prevention. In other words: is there a “Responsibility to Deceive”?. Her published work has appeared in international journals such as Ethics and International Affairs (2020), Terrorism and Political Violence (2019), and Genocide Studies and Prevention (2015).

Navigating the Coming Fog

Katja Theodorakis is a PhD candidate whose doctoral thesis examines the moral dimensions of insurgent propaganda narratives and their strategic use in information operations. Her focus is on the ethical claims movements such as al Qaeda or IS make in a bid for legitimacy vis-à-vis the status-quo regime and its (Western) backers. A key premise underpinning Katja's work is to look beyond technocratic, rational-actor approaches and consider the nature of the human element more fully. Especially as future conflict is anticipated to take place in more 'foggy' environments, her research seeks to inform the understanding of information warfare by drawing out variables relevant to this operating environment. Her publications on this topic include Cybersecurity in a Contested Age, an analysis of The Marawi Crisis: Urban Conflict and Information Operations or Soft Power Thoughts for an Evolving Threat Paradigm.