The Warriors of Facebook and Twitter The importance of social media in the modern war

War on Social Media: From the earliest wars of human history, the significance of what later was to be described as "propaganda" and "psychological warfare" was easily perceived. The story is full of examples where the creative use of propaganda "paved the way" for great military and / or political victories, through techniques such as spreading false (or true) rumors to the ranks of the opponent, intensive propaganda of the positions of one side with the aim of suppressing the arguments of another.

The digital age and the rise of telecommunications and media technologies as easily understood have given new dimensions to the concepts of propaganda, psychological operations and informational warfare. Now the ability to spread a message so that it can be seen by a huge number of recipients does not require very technical means - just a computer with Internet access, one or more accounts on popular social media and a basic knowledge of their use. It is no coincidence that in the current landscape of terrorism / counter-terrorism the battle of social media is perpetual and harsh, as terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State take advantage of the possibilities offered by these internet media for both propaganda and recruitment purposes by skipping " conventional "up to recent media, which could be controlled relatively easily by their opponents.

The use of social media in the modern war (including the concept of the Asymmetric Threat environment, which is a key feature of the international security state now) by ISIS (Islamic State / ISIL or Daesh) has been the subject of intensive study over the last few months, as the campaign with which he advanced his advance and military successes in Iraq was surprised by its complexity and extent. Documentary "professional" character who were shot by the jihadists made the round of the Internet, while in the name of "holy war" over conventional weapons and applications are used for all modern devices. Twitter is a very important tool for the "brains" of the Islamic State, while Facebook is also lagging behind, or other social networking tools.

The widespread use of the Internet and social media for such purposes is not an innovation of the Islamic State, as an important "test" for the most "operational" purposes of social media seems to have been the so-called "Arab Spring", and it is an exception and the crisis in Ukraine - even if on this case it seems that the jihadists have completely "grasped" the meaning, something that has also been perceived by the Western Security Services, which rushing to face the enemy at this level as well. A very typical and recent example is the establishment of a special unit by the British army which will specialize in precisely this subject: the use of psychological warfare techniques and social media for the wars of the "computer age".

Tactics of the past and a new model of war

The topic of social media and its role in modern military operations has been addressed Ioanna Iliadis, Ph.D. candidate of the Open University of Cyprus on Communication and Journalism and Military Editor.

"Changes in the field of communication, and more specifically the possibility we have for portable internet, bring about structural changes in our society. Social media is characterized by chaos and complexity, and the industrial age that we leave behind is based on hierarchy and standardization, "he said, stressing that" the tactics of the past do not match the new war model. "


"The Armed Forces" learn "this change often in the toughest way. Take as an example the famous Mazino line on which Europe's defense was built in World War II, based on lessons learned from the past war. He could not cope with the new doctrine of axle forces, which used a new generation of tanks, airplanes and radio waves. Today, with the explosion of interactive internet, it is favored to create networks at all levels, of course, and in war. Old tactics are considered obsolete and can not be "extended" to new media. "

As for the ISIS campaign on social media and the Internet in general, Ms. Eliades recalls that al-Qaida, the former organization-symbol of Islamic terrorism, was a proven network of new forms of war.


"The ISIS campaign was a well-designed modern warfare operation. If you take a look at the war conflicts and crises of recent years, from the Arab Spring to the recent crisis in Gaza, you will find that they are becoming increasingly complex. The battlefield goes beyond the narrow geographical boundaries of the conflict between two rival parties. The battlefield is now the public worldwide. This explains the large-scale communication activity of ISIS on social media. Another feature of the so-called "war 2.0", is that its outcome is slow and there is absolutely no winner or loser, victory or defeat are determined by the fewest losses.

"Weapon of the poor" or something else?

The term "weapons of the poor" was originally created for chemical weapons, combining high lethality, as weapons of mass destruction, with relative ease in production and use, making them suitable for arsenals of countries with limited economic potential. One question that comes up with social media is whether they are essentially digital "weapons of the poor", low cost and high efficiency.

According to Ms. Iliadis, this is not exactly the case. "Initial assessments of internet use spoke precisely of the 'weapon of the poor' you are referring to. However, this view sees the new media as tools and as an area in which the traditional activity of the Armed Forces should be extended. The United States has paid more than $ 3 trillion in Iraq by investing in the doctrine of shock and awe. But it turned out to be an ineffective way of dealing with organizations like Al Qaeda that operate as networks and can very easily avoid such a pounding. As the American professor John Arquilla characteristically states "in order to face a network, you need networks". Whenever a hierarchically structured army came into conflict with a network, it suffered heavy losses. Today, the US has turned its research interests to the issue of networks, while NATO is also talking about networks.

As far as our country is concerned, its impressive find my graduate research about the impact of social media on the Armed Forces, is that the Greek soldiers who spoke to me believed until 3 years ago that our country will not face terrorist organizations and if that happens, the police will have to deal with them. "

"War Rooms" for social media businesses

The informal war, Mrs. Eliades says, is only a part of the web-based conflict through social media. "A very recent example I attended was during this recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the summer, the use of infographics for propaganda purposes by both parties through the official accounts of IDF and AL Quassam. The scale of the use of infographics (which visualize information) and their content was impressive. In fact, according to a report I read at the time, the Israeli Armed Forces had recruited volunteer students for the campaign and set up a "war room" to conduct social media operations. " Israel, as Ms. Iliad notes, is a highly trained "player" in the subject.

Ease of Achieving Goals and the Situation in Greece

Reasonable questions that arise are whether it is easier or more difficult to achieve the goals of such a campaign through social media in relation to similar businesses of the past that are done for similar purposes but by conventional means - what is the situation in Greece with regard to the relationship of the armed forces with the modern social media environment (in terms of military / business interest).

As Ms. Iliadis answers, “much easier. Think that today in our country, what is true is that in case of crisis, newspapers and televisions will be brought under the control of the Armed Forces and will do propaganda. It will only take us 3 months to successfully crown such a campaign. Of course, it is most likely that it will not be realized in time. Do not laugh, Unfortunately we are still in the era of Imia and on this we build the doctrine of our defense. "Social media officially does not exist for the Greek Armed Forces, so which campaign is expected to be by" analog means "in a digital age."

Constantine Grivas: An inevitable stage in the evolution of the war

He spoke to HuffPost Greece on the issue Konstantinos Grivas, who teaches the course of Geopolitics at the Military School of Flight and Geography of Security and Disarmament at the Department of Turkish and Modern Asian Studies of the University of Athens. As Grivas notes, the widespread use of electronic social media for war purposes is probably an inevitable stage in the evolution of the war.

"War moves alongside human civilization and today we are in a net-centered culture. So the war becomes net-centered. Of course, this term does not mean anything. Or rather it means many different things. The first perceptions of a net-centered war spoke of military control and information networks that would allow military commanders of advanced troops to defeat the fog of war, to know in real time what is happening in the full range and depth of the businesses and exterminate "bad guys" with precision attack weapons. But war is an extraordinary complex phenomenon to get into such molds. "

"War forces born in the late epoch of the internet were designed and implemented out of the world based on their members' way of life"

"Thus, military forces that were born in the late internet age and are not burdened by the legacies of the past, as is the case with traditional armies, were designed and implemented from scratch based on the lifestyle of their members and not some old 'absolute' values. . Thus, they seem to be more adapted to modern conditions than much more powerful troops. "

ISIS Folder: Combining archaic obscurantism with modern media

Particularly interesting in the case of the Islamic State / ISIS, Grivas stresses, is that it combines a obscure archaic politics - religious identity and targeting with methodologies stemming directly from the most modern cultural example.

"It simply came to our notice then. "Social media does not kill."

"Yes, the jihadists support a return to a medieval and intolerant reading of Islam, which probably never existed, but as a military force it is an extremely advanced philosophy. These post-post-modern armies, such as ISIS, are clearly better suited to the culture of networks and entertainment today than even the most ambitious traditional armies, no matter how hard they try to keep up. Of course, in the end, they are all matters of absolute power. Social media does not kill. "A determined opponent with a surplus of power and the absolute disposition to use it would sweep any of these super-modern forces, if they do not have the corresponding power," he notes.

The Leader of Hezbollah

Hezbollah has been a pioneer in this wider field, Mr. Grivas explains, since the mid-1990s. "To some extent, the world of social media is an evolution, a decentralized version, in a way, of the entertainment society that the big media had imposed in a centralized way in the past. Hezbollah had managed to take advantage of this element when the internet was still in its infancy and social media did not exist, playing very well with its image and dissemination to friendly and hostile audiences and passing its messages with a network-decentralized philosophy. ».

"Then we saw that social media played a very important role in the abusively so-called 'Arab Spring', while it was widely used in the war in Libya between Gaddafi's supporters and opponents."
Particularly sophisticated, he adds, is Russia's potential. "I believe that the Russians, especially the special forces, emphasize similar abilities, combined with" traditional ", conventional and non-military capabilities, and perhaps those who are most important will give the Chinese, given the enormous emphasis on every kind of internet-related combat capability and the development of unconventional warfare techniques to defeat the US technological advantage in conventional weapon systems. "

Mr Grivas stresses the economic nature and the enormous potential of social media as a means of war that favors those who do not have access to "traditional" high-tech and high-cost systems. However, he stresses that he is not a panacea.

"The fate of new military capabilities, even the most complex and quirky ones, is to be devalued over time and antidotes and coping techniques always emerge. After all, social media is not a deadly weapon. It is a tool that allows you to make better use of your weapons and lethal performance in the communication level, but by itself does not win wars ".

Asymmetric threat or "hybrid war"?

The term "asymmetric threat" is widely used in the context of the current international security environment, but Mr Grivas estimates that in the case of social media in warfare, he is part of the so-called "hybrid warfare," complex size including conventional and unconventional combat capabilities and methodologies, low and high technology systems, terrorist methods, propaganda, psychological warfare etc ".

Social media and conventional armed forces

Regarding the use of social media by the conventional armed forces, this is possible in the context of "traditional" military methodologies, notes Mr. Grivas. "For example, with the use of social media there can be better communication and receiving information, even regular information, from the battlefield. By utilizing the social media and other modern media offered by today's decentralized culture, a smart commander may be able to make decisions faster than his opponents, accelerating the pace of battle and entering the OODA cycle (observe, orient , decide, act or Boyd) circle of the opponent, leading him to disorganization ".

What the State Department analysts say - strategies against the Islamic State's digital campaign

In the context of this issue, HuffPost Greece contacted the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) of the State Department. As explained in an email about the ISIS / ISIL strategy or Kerry Busbaer, junior analyst at the CSCC, recruiting efforts through Twitter, Facebook and video "produce" great viewing, and "reach" a wide audience. "ISIL" plays "with his" shine "to indulge someone in the jihad and to follow a lifestyle that looks exciting. Drawing on memes, popular video games and Hollywood-style video, ISIL presents themes that appeal to young people and are curious and interesting to join in. "

"We focus our messages on tackling ISIL's" narratives "

What the CSCC does, Mrs Busbehner emphasizes, is to publicly underline misinformation and contradictions, in order to challenge and reduce the virtual "soil" it holds, "exposing hypocrisy behind ISIL rhetoric."

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"We emphasize that ISIL slaughters innocent Muslims - regardless of sect or ethnicity - and is involved in relentless attacks on Sunni Arab tribes in both Syria and Iraq, as well as anyone who opposes its violent ideology. Young people enter the battle and find out when they arrive that the conditions are not so "bright". A recent banner released through the Think Again Turn Away campaign underscores the testimony of an ISIL gunman, who describes that the role of a "foreign fighter" is essentially that of "cannon fodder". Since ISIL propaganda can be effective on those who do not listen to the truth or alternative opinions, we focus our messages on dealing with ISIL "narratives" and presenting the hard life of a "foreign fighter", and on continue to increase the exposure of our work through digital projection teams ".


Addressing the jihadist campaign, Ms. Bushbaer explains, means engaging in online forums via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms. "This is done in the form of banners and videos we create to show the truth about the atrocities of ISIL. Also, Twitter responses to ISL supporters who misinterpret what ISIL is really doing, and suggestions for narratives for which ISIL wants minimal visibility. The audience we are addressing is not those who have already joined ISIL. Instead, we are trying to approach potentially "newcomers" and those who have not yet taken the decision to enter their ranks. We want to "recount" the narratives about ISIL's "undefeated" and instead present the violent reality of his empty vision. "


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