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+

Filed Under: army, propaganda, social media, uk


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 1:18am

    And Facebook to prompt all UK users to register to vote in the upcoming election.

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/04/facebook-to-prompt-everyone-to-register-t o-vote-in-uk-general-election

    Private companies doing the government's bidding. Scary times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 2:23am

      Re:

      Encouraging people to vote, whatever country you're in, is a good thing, not some kind of government agenda

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:06am

        Re: Re:

        It's propaganda when your only real choices are corporate shill A and corporate shill B.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:14am

        Re: Re:

        Its worth noting the the Tories in the UK are currently spending £125,000 a month on FaceBollox advertising.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:16pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:50am

      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

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 1:33am

    I remember the times when the JIDF was just a joke...
    The UK government does puts up a nice show with freedom n whatnot but it looks like they took lessons from Kim'jo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 1:34am

    Now the UK military has the upper hand in attracting new recruits. They have things like this or this (slightly NSFW) to use as propaganda while the ISIS has this. Totally not fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 2:24am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:08am

      Re:

      And herein lies the problem. I've seen reports that the US State Dept's anti-ISIS twitter accounts have branched out from simply countering radicals and would-be recruits but are actively harassing independent bloggers in Syria and the rest of the ME.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:47am

      Re:

      In the UK they wouldn't dare. The serious papers have a hell of a lot of power, as much as in get the right papers on your side - you win the election.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:23am

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          I'm_Having_None_Of_It, 6 Feb 2015 @ 5:32am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 2:51am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:20pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 11:51pm

      Re:

      Umm, no, using regular soldiers for this would be a terrible idea, instead they're choosing people with training in debate and/or propaganda.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mark Golding, 11 Nov 2016 @ 3:50pm

      Re: war

      Soldiers are sent to die in wars created by liars.
      Goodbye.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    McDoogle, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:19am

    So they will be using their JTRIG tools to hack and astroturf social media to try to control public discourse?

    Good luck with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:36am

    Uk governmrnt no better then terrorist

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:44am

    The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors

    Sure, no problem as long as they use their real name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:03am

      Re:

      Or legally required to identify themselves online in their propaganda capacity i.e. while on the "job"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 7:58am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:55am

    The british have been involved in propaganda campaigns for many many years already for those who are'nt aware

    i tend to call it manipulation around these parts, i dont condone any one doing it, especially when large ammounts of money is involved and 1500 employed specifically to do it....WTF

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:10am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:25am

    How long before they are turned against their fellow citizens?

    Anyone want to place bets how long it will be before they start trying to manipulate popular opinion among their fellow countrymen?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:48am

      Re: How long before they are turned against their fellow citizens?

      They already have the mainstream media and press for that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I'm_Having_None_Of_It, 6 Feb 2015 @ 5:36am

        Re: Re: How long before they are turned against their fellow citizens?

        Which are doing a great job. Demonising the poor has several programmess solely dedicated to it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:00am

      Re: How long before they are turned against their fellow citizens?

      I think your a couple of generations late

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:27am

    I think you forget the bigger one: the almighty US. of A.

    They've been in full social media propaganda mode for well over a year now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:31am

    What do they need this new propaganda army for, they already control broadcast media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:06am

    So the masters of propaganda have finally come out of the closet, the others i guess must still be ashamed......cant think why

    You know, it was'nt to long ago we were condeming a war over wmd that didnt exist, and now we learn they learned NOTHING

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:23am

    So, the British weren't content on claiming they own the world, and are now trying to claim some kind of digital empire?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 12:11pm

    This is hilarious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:46pm

    Facebook Warriors?

    What are they going to do? De-friend me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:45pm

      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.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 10:20am

    We already have this. They troll anyone that voices opinions contrary to the official party line.

    They do their best to get people banned from sites. generally only say things that support again the party line.

    Office of propaganda

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:38pm

    And the Cyber War Begins

    Woohoo!

    Shill Force One!
    Professional Military Trained Trolls!

    That'll definitely make the world a safer place fer sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Imran, 15 Mar 2015 @ 6:35pm

    Facebook Warriors

    The UK government is creating a special force of Facebook warriors virtuoso in psychological operations and use of social media to possess interaction among the trendy era.

    Imran

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.