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SOCIAL MEDIA AS TOOL OF WAR

There is no doubt that social networks are a tool for the modern war of the information age. There are many researches on the use of social networks as a means of manipulation, but few have analyzed the use of social networks as a tool for war. The Lt Col Jarred Prier, from USAF, is one of the authors that have explained how social media are transformed into a weapon. For Prier there are three fundamental pillars; type of social networks, propaganda, and news and information exchange. The lieutenant colonel suggests that the adaptation of social networks as a tool of modern warfare is a consequence of a linear logic; Internet technology evolved to meet the needs of the information age war around 2006 with the onset of Web 2.0, which allowed Internet users to create content rather than just consume information found on the Internet. For the first time since the mass media began, the individual could decide what information he wanted to consume. But users can not only select what news they want to watch, but they could also use the web to create news based on their opinions. The social nature of humans eventually led to the creation of virtual networks. This has created a dilemma in which the media are obliged to give way to a more personalized form of communication.

Jarred Prier presenting the research on Social Media

However, the personalization of the use of internet information is already analyzed and influenced by factual and institutional powers, including terrorist groups. This new form of communication is used by state and non-state actors, who use social networks to use time-tested propaganda techniques to obtain long-term results. The actors who want to exploit the use of propaganda in social networks take advantage of an existing narrative, then amplifying that message with a network of automatic bots accounts to force the algorithm of the social media platform to recognize that message as a trending topic. The personal decision about what information is relevant or not is nowadays manipulated by a series of propaganda tools applied to the digital environment. Coercion and persuasion will continue to be decisive factors in information warfare as more countries try to build influential operations in social networks.

Previously, traditional forms of cyberattack were directed against states or their institutions, today cyberattacks are directed at people within a society to influence their beliefs and behaviors. The main objective is that the population ceases to have confidence in their own government and cease to have an attachment with the values ​​that rule the society in which they live. Therefore, instead of attacking military or economic infrastructure, state and non-state actors can access regular online information flows through social networks to influence network groups within a particular country.

Jarred Prier's article in Strategic Studies Quarterly analyzes how social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook use an algorithm to analyze words, phrases or hashtags to create a list of topics sorted by popularity. For Prier there was a problem; social networks facilitate user networks with like-minded ideas. How then can a propaganda message go through hermetic networks created by an algorithm of the network itself? The solution is the trending topic. This "trend list" is a quick way to review the most discussed topics at any given time. Social networks’ trending topic "captures the attention of a large audience for a short time" and therefore "contribute to the mechanisms d and setting the agenda." The manipulators can insert advertising on a social networking platform, creating a trend and quickly spread a message of a cheaper way than through any other means of communication. Social networks facilitate the spread of a narrative out of a particular social group. Dynamism is based on Jarred Prier on four factors: (1) a message that is just to an existing narrative; (2) a group of true believers predisposed to the message; (3) a relatively small team of cyber warriors; and (4) a network of automated "bots" accounts.

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A trending topic can spread a message to a large group outside a person's social network. The domain of the trending topic is a powerful method to disseminate information. Previously groups like al-Qaeda preferred to create websites, but now they prefer social networks. Groups that try to spread a message as widely as possible can rely on the trending topic function to reach across multiple networks. The manipulators actors seeking to influence a population through the trending topic usually create an account network bots scheduled for tweeting at various intervals, to respond to certain words, or to retweet when directed by a master account. In short, social networks are going to be a weapon of war, and techniques such as search engine optimization and the dominance of the trend will become common in future wars. Manipulating the information will aim to make the other party change its course of action. The ease of use and the large number of active bots and sleeping bots indicate a high probability that social networks will continue to be a war scenario, especially as more and more state and non-state organizations realize the impact they can have on an adversary. Social media is not an innocent communication channel, and social media opinion are not excluded from psyops operations.

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