It’s no secret that many governments have discovered the importance of social media. One on-line article attracted my attention (see: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2015/08/us-intelligence-community-keys-russian-troll-army-manipulating-social-media/119158/) Intelligence officials were quoted as having said: “There is a concern that social media campaigns orchestrated by overseas powers could distort open-source intelligence gathering”.
During disasters, much like combat, there ‘s a fog as to what is really going on. In my role as a Red Cross volunteer I’ve learned to appreciate how ‘tweets’ can be a barometer of public perception of a disaster. The amount of tweets rises and falls in line with the public’s perception of the severity of the event.
It’s also probably fair to say that there is some sort of ‘bandwagon’ effect whereby lots of tweets and social media activity spurs even more. If a government (or non-state actor) were able to distort the frequency and content of social media to the point where they were actually shaping it, this would be a great for them.
It could be a double play in the sense of they have distorted the truth and secondly are able to influence more people to think or behave in their direction.
The article emphasizes how the Russians were able to impact social media after the MH17 crash in the Ukraine.
The implication for the PSYOP/MISO community is clear. There needs to be a balance between ‘new’ and ‘old’ influence mechanisms. Unfortunately the tendency in today’s world is for the US government to classify anything and everything that is cyber, just as they did for SIGINT a half-century ago.
MISO requires synergistic ways and means. Cyber and traditional influence operations must work seamlessly together to reinforce each other. Social media influence will continue to be pivotal. Hopefully cyber influencers will be able to work well with their military counterparts and others to optimize the use of influence operations as a national power.
Photo Source: www.thetimes.co.uk