“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” -Napoleon Bonaparte
The battles fought in the multi-dimensional area of the internet have marked the 21st century unsafe. Internet is an ungoverned state of the billions of inhabitants, a voice of many but an environment without gravity. ‘Without gravity’ indicates that the internet is a boundless landscape untethered from the environment of the physical world. There are no existing boundaries and its reach is not scalable. A terrain of the battlefield puts a halt to an army’s ability to deploy its forces. On the other hand, the internet has no physical or geographical barriers. A group of hackers can attack a site from any part of the world, with no boundaries of space and time.
Social media, a weapon being used against the rival can be considered as a radio and on a battlefield. Radio set has always been an effective weapon where fighters receive guidance and orders through a radio. Social media has been used for a long time to jeopardize credibility and to undermine authority. The huge flow of internet usage acts as a veil on the use of social media as a weapon. Social media is being used by terrorist groups and different governments to achieve their operational purposes.
Different countries benefit themselves by weaponizing social media by using the Information Operation Strategy. Information Operation Strategy incorporates the assortment of strategic data about the enemy just as the spread of publicity in the quest for an upper hand over a rival. A huge example is Russia using social media against Ukraine and the West. Russia allegedly executed an Information Operation strategy, which replaced Ukrainian news sources to undermine the administration and orchestrate the exercises of pro-Russian rebels in the Crimea. Russian Federal Security Service developed a fake account to spread the propaganda. By using proxies and state-supported social media, Russia met its operational aims within Ukraine, without using a huge force.
The Second Lebanon War in 2016 depicts the utilization of social-media operations in a hybrid war setting a Western-style military contrary to a foe. Israel assumed that it was the same battle they have been fighting for ages with Hezbollah but little did they know that Hezbollah had transformed itself into an advanced hybrid force with technological modern weapons and communication skills. It was not just the war on air, land, and sea, it was in Cyberspace aswell. Hezbollah allegedly applied the IO strategy by hacking several websites around the globe and spread their message. This resulted in moral and financial support, which made their operations effective. The impact of Hezbollah’s strategy was felt by the Israeli government like a punch to the gut.
Social media is widely used for state leaders to publish messages and get their word across the world. But if an insurgent steps in, the state’s army can not physically fight back. It is allegedly stated that in 2013, a group calling itself Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Twitter account of Associated Press News Agency and tweeted bogus news that US president was injured in a White House bomb, and accordingly, US market went down for 3 minutes till AP Corporate Communications stated that the news was fake.
It is to be noted that social media resembles a double-edged sword. The essential idea of social media is sharing information, which is vulnerable and builds the risk of security. The utilization of social media is stacked with risks from the point of view of cyber-security as well as strategic communication, that must be diminished and accounted for in any operational arrangement.
“The great masters of warfare techniques during the 21st century will be those who employ innovative methods to recombine various capabilities to attain tactical, campaign, and strategic goals.“ – Yier Tierfude
In the 21st century, war is not only being fought between states but also being fought between state and non-state actors. Hybrid warfare has for sure taken over conventional warfare. It is time we work on the tactics to deter hybrid warfare.