US Military seeks to weaponize social media

by David Solomonoff

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) just put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks”.

The project description states that:

…. goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop
a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base.  In particular, SMISC
will develop automated and semi‐automated operator support tools and techniques for the
systematic and methodical use of social media at data scale and in a timely fashion to
accomplish four specific program goals:

1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas
and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media
sites and communities. 
3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns. 
4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.

The project echoes concerns in the upper levels of the US military about recent events in the Middle East, where social networks have played an important role in protests against longtime US allies.

In January, the US Army issued soldiers a new handbook on social media warning troops to think twice before divulging information on Facebook or Twitter that could be exploited by adversaries.

The introduction states:

Social media is a powerful communication tool, but it goes beyond just using the tools. It is important to understand the tools and their overwhelming benefits and sometimes dangerous ramifications. It is also important to develop a strategy and execute that strategy while keeping operations security in mind …. embrace social media, read through the regulations at the back of this handbook and develop a strong fundamental knowledge of these tools.

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