A Mixed-Methods, Media-Enhanced Investigation of Public Response to Geo-Political Events and Social Engineering
Social engineering attacks seek to manipulate social attitudes and behaviors on a population-wide scale, and are recognized as a serious threat to national security. Malicious actors may exploit existing fears through intentional use of dis-information tactics to encourage moral panic, distrust in public institutions, or radicalized social behaviors. Why individuals may be susceptible to social engineering is not fully understood. Our inductive, mixed methods, includes guided observations of public response and topical narratives in popular media, and integration of psychoanalytically-informed, targeted, first-person interviews, to discover common themes through content analysis. We use platform developer tools and automated data extraction techniques, collect a subset of social media data for natural language analysis, and develop qualitative scoring frameworks, to determine a time-dependent assessment of social climate for a target population. Using this method, public response to specific messaging and associated geo-political events is studied to develop interventions that promote resilience to destabilizing influence. We will discuss examples from our recent research related to the specific topic of moral panic and social injustice, and the utility of our methodology for furthering our understanding of psycho-socio-cultural phenomena impacting the geo-political environment.