British Army To Create 1500-Strong Social Media Propaganda Force

from the Facebook-warriors dept

There’s a small but growing club of countries that have created various kinds of groups to produce social media propaganda. Alongside Turkey, China and Israel, we can now add the UK to that list, as the Guardian reports:

The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age.

The unit, which is quite substantial — 1500-strong — will formally come into being in April. The Guardian story provides some interesting background to the announcement:

The move is partly a result of experience in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan. It can also be seen as a response to events of the last year that include Russia’s actions in Ukraine, in particular Crimea, and Islamic State’s (Isis) takeover of large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Nato has so far been unable to find a counter to what the US and UK claim is Russia creating unrest by sending in regular troops disguised as local militia, allowing president Vladimir Putin to deny responsibility. Isis has proved adept at exploiting social media to attract fighters from around the world.

When an army as traditional as the UK’s is putting these kinds of resources behind online propaganda units, you know it’s entered the mainstream. Expect many others to follow suit, and for the digital fog of war to become considerably thicker.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “British Army To Create 1500-Strong Social Media Propaganda Force”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

LOL

I pray for the day the turnout is 10% and below in any “western democracy” so that we just get over it with the bullshit. I’m not sure what would happen but the message would be loud and clear: nobody of you carreer politicians represent any of us. We’d also have to trap old people somewhere during sElection day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The question your gonna ask yourself is, whats this propaganda unit gonna do when a party runs on the basis of getting rid of these propaganda/surveilance units…….or whose gonna “recresition” them, or what these individual propaganda operators are gonna have access to through surveillance

Suppose their target is to discredit this generations ghandi or Mr martin luther king, add unlimited illegal spying, NON illegality laws, and anon to the mix……..and we have a tyranical government, although im coming to realise, we’ve always had one, it is the nature of government without SERIOUS restraints

That One Guy (profile) says:

If the primary use for such a group is centered around countering enemy propaganda, I can understand why they’re doing it, and to an extent support it, as it’s a hell of a lot less bloody a ‘battle’ than the standard.

Where things get tricky is if their focus shifts, and they start being used against other groups, like say the newspapers publishing the Snowden documents and other leaks. The affected governments loathe those that make them look bad or expose their actions, so I imagine it would be incredibly tempting to use a propaganda group like this in an attempt to turn public opinion against those ‘domestic enemies’, and that I would not support at all.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The Guardian, one of the earlier publishers for the Snowden documents, has already been threatened over their actions, to the point that they even ended up having a couple of government thugs ‘destroy’ a hard drive in a pathetic and/or symbolic attempt to stop future reporting on the subject.

If the UK government is willing to do that, what makes you think they wouldn’t also try and poison public opinion against a newspaper that made them look bad?

I'm_Having_None_Of_It says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That turned out to be a massive own goal for the Government. Meanwhile, Call-me-Dave’s scaremongering and nannying has only served to annoy us. We’re fed up with the whole useless lot of them. Result: the Greens are beginning to look like serious contenders.

That said, the Guardian has yet to overcome its image as a paper for (mostly) trendy left-liberals. All of the others are basically Establishment.

Anonymous Coward says:

In a way it makes some sense, since most combat soldiers are basically doing little more than waiting around for the next war to start, while doing stupid ‘busy work’ like spending hours polishing their boots to a mirror shine, so they won’t get yelled at and punished for having imperfectly shined boots.

So this propaganda program is taking a normally wasted resource and making ‘productive’ use out of it. Now the government can cut down on the fortune spent hiring private companies to flood Facebook, and paying ‘independent’ journalists to write editorials, supporting the official government position and smearing critics. Right? Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Battle Of Ideas

It is a good idea that the enlightenment makes some effort to win the battle of ideas, but this method is doomed. It puts poorly-trained poorly-motivated low-ranking soldiers up against the mad mullahs. The mad mullahs have dedicated their whole lives to winning religious arguments, since they were little children. They are really, seriously good at it. The poor old soldiers have no hope and they may do more harm than good.

The better strategy would to make DVDs about why being enlightened is a good idea. In these countries, there are lots of TVs with DVD players. Let people play the DVDs and have a think about it. Do an honest professional job. You need smart people on the DVDs — real educators. Absolute truthfulness is the key, no gilding the lily. Make the DVDs bilingual (local language plus English). Then flood these countries with copies. Encourage local copying. Make the video files freely available.

When the mad mullahs are issuing fatwas and attempting censorship of the DVDs, then you know you are winning. The angrier they get, the better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: (using real names on Facebook)

I would not be surprised if these “Facebook warriors” have been given fake names and profiles for this. This is normal for real agents going into the field. Anybody trying to track down one of these profiles may find themselves on the receiving end of a ‘counter-intel’ visit.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Colonel: Right, cut to me. As Officer Commanding the Regular Army’s Advertising Division, I object, in the strongest possible terms to this obvious reference to our own slogan ‘It’s a dog’s life … (correcting himself rapidly) a man’s life in the modern army’ and I warn this programme that any recurrence of this sloppy long-haired civilian plagiarism will be dealt with most severely. Right, now on the command ‘cut’, the camera will cut to camera two, all right, director… (cut to a man sitting at desk) Wait for it! (cut back to colonel) Camera cut.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Facebook Warriors?

More like steal your password and use your account to send out violently threatening posts and pornographic snuff images to officials and movie stars and other VIPs.

Then bust your ass for making violent threats and put you in prison for three years where the Professional criminals can use you as a girlie boy and punching bag, in return for extra cocaine in their daily mail, provided by the CIA.

Remember, they will have full access to all of the NSA and other Five Eyes Nations’ favorite dirty tricks programs.

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