Air Force eyes fake social media drama

The idea is to simulate social media activity following a disaster as a way to model potential responses.

Shutterstock image: circuitry of a digital brain.

What: The Air Force's 21st Contracting Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado wants to find a way to simulate the social media angst that floods the Internet after a man-made or natural catastrophe, in an effort to help manage those situations.

Why: In a March 6 sources sought notice, the Air Force said it was looking into off-the-shelf, customizable disaster management modeling/simulation and social media emulation support for Department of Defense exercises.

Potential sources for the disaster management system would have to establish an "Exercise Social Media Web Portal," a password-protected website to which disaster exercise controllers could upload and stream ersatz disaster videos, print stories, photographs, blogs and other posts on social media pages that look and function like current, relevant mainstream and social media sites but which are isolated from real-world media sites.

The site would simulate social media postings from thousands of users after a major calamity. The portal, said the Air Force notice, would have to support up to 1,200 users who could have as many as 10 "personae" depending on the disaster. In response to a question from a potential source about whether those personae could be transferred across specific scenarios, such as "the Hurricane Scenario," "the Dirty Bomb Scenario," or "the Targeted Sophisticated Attack Scenario," the Air Force said it was up to the vendor as to whether to customize the personae used for each kind of event.

It also said the social media portal should be sealed off from real social media sites and the Internet in general to avoid "bleedover" of fake news reports into the real world. Conversely, the separate simulation portal's job could be complicated if real-world information seeped in.

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