Public Diplomacy and the New “Old” War: Countering State-Sponsored Disinformation (2020)


U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

The ACPD is a bipartisan panel created by Congress in 1948 to appraise all U.S. government efforts to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. The Commission reports on and makes recommendations to improve the public diplomacy functions vested in U.S. government entities such as the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and other interagency partners.

This ACPD special report on Public Diplomacy and the New “Old” War: Countering State-Sponsored Disinformation assesses recent State Department and U.S. Agency for Global Media efforts to address a sophisticated array of technology-enabled, information-based threats to national security. Disinformation, or the manipulation and dissemination of information to adversely influence public perceptions and behaviors, has emerged as a major destabilizing force in the global information space. These sophisticated threats weaken state credibility, perpetuate destabilizing narratives about national identity and values, and, most dangerously, erode public confidence in democratic institutions.

Based on targeted surveys and data calls as well as interviews with public diplomacy practitioners and researchers in Washington and the field, this report offers a unique diagnostic assessment of public diplomacy efforts to counter disinformation effects. In addition to evaluating program coordination and resource distribution, this report also provides select U.S. embassy and host country perspectives on counter disinformation program implementation and impacts. Finally, the report offers a set of recommendations to improve deterrence and strengthen resilience to malign influence campaigns.