Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Social Media PSYOP - Overrated?

There is no question that social media is a hot topic. Everyone from marketing and sales gurus to attorneys are pondering the implications of social media and how to harness this new medium to achieve their own goals.

On September 7, 2010 the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement published an article entitled “Psychological Warfare in the Social Media Era: Winning Hearts and Minds through Facebook and Twitter” by Nick Younker (

Mr. Younker contends that “Harnessing and controlling messages distributed via the internet and social media will be a next big battleground to win the heart and minds of the world’s masses regardless of who is the enemy of the day. The question of which nations will control and push out the message most effectively will become increasingly important. One thing is clear; whoever controls the message controls the masses. And whoever controls the masses will have the ability to win future wars.”

First of all, while the Internet and Social Media in particular seem to be obsessions in the ‘developed’ world and while addiction to texting and other total connectivity is running rampant, not everyone is plugged in.

In many current and potential AOs the Internet is as out of reach as the stars. Rural people are facing the challenge of feeding their families, finding clean water to drink and staying healthy. So I don’t regard Social Media PSYOP or even Cyber PSYOP as a silver bullet able to effectively target every enemy or adversary.

Having said that however, social media is important and must be addressed. This is a classic case where a CONUS based specialized unit could be the DOD or the US government “Center of Excellence for On-Line Influence”. As such messages could be targeted to specific audiences and technology would be constantly updated and where there would be no constraint on bandwidth.

This (God help me) Government Information Support Operations (GISO) unit would be composed of DOD, Department of State and augmented by other personnel from the DOJ, Commerce and perhaps treasury.

To be effective it would have to be served by an all source intelligence center which would be plugged into the respective departmental intelligence sources , commercial and academic resources (e.g. Carnegie Mellon).

The center would also have a PAO component which would be responsible for its own content and messaging and serve as the conduit of appropriate information and messages to and from on-line and perhaps traditional media.

Of course the prerequisite for establishing such a center is an overarching strategy for the use of on-line media by the US Government – something that appears to be a long way off.

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