Bin Laden fallout: How Abbottabad tweets reveal changes in modern warfare
Governments are having to change how they carry out and report military operations because of the rise of social media, and the strike on Osama bin Laden was a prime example.
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“It allows commanders visualization of the battlefield to keep pace with the mechanical progress through it,” says Mr. Robinson. “This is light-years ahead of war before social media.”Skip to next paragraph
The military has changed not just what it thinks about, but how it thinks, says Robinson. The mental openness that comes from the broad information flow in social media may be the biggest change wrought on the military mind, he says.
“When you allow a beehive mentality and social interaction, that little creek of information becomes a raging river where you are processing more information,” he says, adding that this allows for many dissenting opinions. If you plan for this rich mix, “then you can begin to find order in what might have seemed like chaos to earlier generations,” he says.
However, Robinson points out, the military has also begun to draw some lines in the digital sand. In the rush to share information among a wide range of agencies and analysts, a level of unfettered access to sensitive information “went too far,” he says, ultimately leading to classified information up on WikiLeaks. To prevent such a leak happening again, the military has instituted checks and balances, limiting what can be downloaded or carried offsite.
As social-media technology continues to evolve, expect even more sophisticated military applications, says Michael Hussey, CEO and founder of PeekYou.com, a search company that monitors individuals' digital footprints. Data monitoring and location-based technologies are exploding across the Internet, he says. For instance, the ability to track social-media chatter at a hyper-local level “could provide a pretty precise idea of who is doing what and where,” he says.
Look for more nighttime operations taking place in much shorter windows of time, says David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and political consulting firm. This will limit the military’s exposure, he says.
“We have a world of information where we are getting as much information from some guy with a cell phone as from Brian Williams or CNN,” says Mr. Johnson. He suggests that some of the great military ruses of yesteryear may no longer be possible, such as Patton’s decoy “fake army,” or the double who impersonated British Field Marshal Montgomery in World War II.
“Today,” he says, “the Pentagon no longer controls the narrative.”