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Archive for the ‘Defence and social media’ tag

Twitter back under military microscope


Wired magazine reports that US army inteligence has been studying how the micro-blogging tool Twitter could be used for possible militant purposes.

Quoting a recent presentation (put together on the Army’s 304th Military Intelligence Battalion and found on the Federation of the American Scientists website) it says a recent report focuses on some of the newer applications for mobile phones: digital maps, GPS locators, photo swappers, and Twitter mash-ups of it all.

Noah Shachtman’s article says the presentation lays out three possible scenarios in which Twitter could become a militant’s friend:

Scenario 1: Terrorist operative “A” uses Twitter with… a cell phone camera/video function to send back messages, and to receive messages, from the rest of his [group]… Other members of his [group] receive near real time updates (similar to the movement updates that were sent by activists at the RNC) on how, where, and the number of troops that are moving in order to conduct an ambush.

Scenario 2: Terrorist operative “A” has a mobile phone for Tweet messaging and for taking images. Operative “A” also has a separate mobile phone that is actually an explosive device and/or a suicide vest for remote detonation. Terrorist operative “B” has the detonator and a mobile to view “A’s” Tweets and images. This may allow ”B” to select the precise moment of remote detonation based on near real time movement and imagery that is being sent by “A.”

Scenario 3: Cyber Terrorist operative “A” finds U.S. [soldier] Smith’s Twitter account. Operative “A” joins Smith’s Tweets and begins to elicit information from Smith. This information is then used for… identity theft, hacking, and/or physical [attacks]. This scenario… has already been discussed for other social networking sites, such as My Space and/or Facebook.

Interesting to see that the expert analyst quoted goes on to dismiss these “Twitter threats” as something to keep a sense of propertion about.

But this report (even with the ”what are you doing? death to America” graphic) adds further weight to the growing reports on how the military is harnessing social media tools – a topic which I shall endeavour to keep track of through this blog.

Written by sarahhartley

October 26th, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Social media and moden warfare


It was interesting to see this item from the BBC this week; New media plan to combat Taleban

According it its “Whitehall sources”, the BBC reports that “a radical new plan is being considered by the UK government to counter growing Taleban propaganda in Afghanistan.

“The programme involves using new media like mobile phones and the internet to empower ordinary Afghans to contradict the prevailing Taleban message.”

As readers of this, and Charlie Beckett’s , blog already know, the fact that the military is moving to utilise social media platforms isn’t a new idea.

Activity in this area already includes active bloggers for the US military, a dedicated UK video unit and the openness to engaging with new audiences using the tools of Web 2.0 to better communicate with the public were explored at the recent NATO Public Affairs Conference.

But what I found interesting (but not surprising) about the BBC report is the response from the interviewer. Part way through this radio clip he says, while chuckling; “Well it’s certainly a different way to win a war!”.

He later goes on to dismissively say something about “a Facebook thing going on”.

It demonstrates an oft-experienced scepticism when dealing with the issues social media throws up.

I blame part of the problem on the silly names the developers too often give these services – I mean, whoever came up with Plurk was just having a laugh and getting a business-minded professional to engage with something called Dipity is always going to need a leap of faith!

But aside from the naming, there’s something else going on here, a sort of unwillingness to accept that these tools are used for real communications, really serious endeavour and meaningful engagement.

Anyone who doubts that should spend just a few minutes looking at how terror groups have successfully embraced the possibilities of the internet and utilise mobile and Web 2.0 tools.

When the Talaban mash up a video showing death and destruction and distribute it across mobile and online platforms, it’s unlikely they have much of an issue with the name of the app. or the purpose for which it was created.

It’s a tool, it does the job they need they need it to do, it’s low cost, high visibility - and it works. 

The projects mentioned above are all an acknowledgement of this fact, however difficult a pill that is to swallow.

Yes, these tools may have been dreamed up for use for innocuous reasons but, like technologies throughout history, it’s the real-scenario take-up which then changes the world.

Written by sarahhartley

October 12th, 2008 at 6:26 pm