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.