We are living in a digital era. Each and every single waking second of our lives are now filled with information that we can receive from a number of different sources and individuals. Traditionally, newspaper or TV would be our only resources, the Internet now allows us to source news, share opinions and set up online communities with like-minded individuals. In the UK alone it is said that 85 per cent of homes have Internet access (source: Rand Europe).
This morning it has been reported that the army is set to adopt social media and set up a new unit that will use psychological operations to help fight wars.
I think this is an extremely positive step forward for the army, and have no doubt it will help fight the war against violent extremists and terrorism. It is widely assumed the internet has played a particular role in radicalisation (Aly, 2010; Awan, 2007; Friedland, 2009; O’Rourke, 2007; Tucker, 2010). War has shifted, and whilst I don’t profess to be an expert in this area, I, like most of us are afraid for our own lives, family and friends every time we hear a new terror attack on the news, whether it be in my own country or abroad. War doesn’t necessarily take place on a battlefield anymore, it can happen anywhere, anytime. The 911 attacks, 7 July London bombings and the Boston Bombings are just a few recent terrorist attacks that have taken place completely unexpectedly, all of which were said to have been organised online. The surviving Boston bombing suspect told investigators he and his brother learned to build bombs from online sources.
The Internet has brought about huge positive shifts within both our personal and professional lives. The downside is some of the opportunities it can create, such as enabling radicalisation. The internet allows us to connect with anyone anywhere in the world without having to meet them face to face, this provides an opportunity for creating massive online communities with like minded individuals, all of whom could well be violent extremists or terrorists.
Knowing that the army will now be using social media as part of their battle against war fills me with confidence we can begin the fight against radicalisation, violent extremists and terrorists. The Army says it’s learnt valuable lessons from Afghanistan – not least that it can’t win wars using pure military force alone (BBC News). The new brigade will be skilled in using social media and psychological operations. They will try to influence local populations and change behaviour.
I look forward to hearing how this new brigade gets on, and pleased to hear that the army is adapting to modern times.