The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 2

| September 2020

Mis/Disinformation Response Plan

The Election Influence Operations Playbook for State and Local Election Officials is part of a series of playbooks developed since 2017 by the Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center to help election officials prepare for and respond to cyber and information attacks.

The Information Operations Playbook provides advice and guidance for election officials to assist them in better understanding, countering, and responding to influence operations. It is divided into three parts: Understanding Election Mis and Disinformation; The Mis/Disinformation Response Plan; and The Mis/Disinformation Response Scenario Plans (by request).


Part 2: Mis/Disinformation Response Plan

This section of the Playbook includes recommendations and materials focused on the response process. It will help election officials respond to election-related mis and disinformation incidents quickly and in a coordinated fashion. 

Modern influence operations typically attack the democratic process online and can spread quickly. The most effective responses are swift, simple, and clear. A unified team effort should be engaged in countering these efforts.  

In this playbook, we refer to mis/disinformation throughout as one concept.  For election officials, any incorrect information presented to voters, regardless of source or intention, can pose a threat to elections because it can undermine voters’ understanding of and trust in the election.

The recommendations in this playbook will need to change as mis/disinformation tactics evolve. The most effective way to counter these incidents is to ensure that your office is a well-known, trusted source of information on election processes and requirements, in advance of election day.  

In this guide, we advocate for a four-stage approach to counter IO which can help you make a response plan:

1. Anticipate & Prepare
Steps officials can take ahead of elections to make mis/disinformation incidents less likely to occur or to lay a foundation for an efficient response to such incidents. 

2. Identify & Assess
How officials can identify mis/disinformation incidents and assess their relative severity. 

3. Respond & Report
What officials can do to address mis/disinformation incidents when they occur. 

4. Learn & Improve
How officials can learn from past mis/disinformation incidents to improve responses and defenses in later election cycles.


Download the full Playbook:

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 2.” , September 2020.


Eric Rosenbach