How Social Media on the Modern Day Battlefield Has Affected the Military
With continually developing technology, the ways in which members of the military connect with friends, family and the civilian world are changing. We need to take a hard look at social media on the modern day battlefield. Think back to the days of World War I, where the only means for soldiers to keep in touch with their families was by writing letters. Since the Internet and social media were invented, nowadays communication is a whole lot quicker and easier.
Social media was at the epicenter of the military operation to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. A coffee shop owner in Abbottobad Pakistan unknowingly tweeted commentary about the sound of the helicopters carrying Seal Team Six operators as they were en route to the Bin Laden compound. Sohaib Athar quite literally broke the first news about the Bin Laden operation when he tweeted “”Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)”
The Use of Social Media by Terrorists
Just this week, we have seen the barbaric acts of ISIS in Iraq and Syria being splashed across social media by ISIS itself. In fact, the Department of Defense believes that a US born America is behind the social media blitz. Ahmad Abousamra, a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston with a degree related to computer technology, is suspected of being the social media manager of ISIS. He is on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. The terrorists are literally embracing social media on the modern day battlefield as a terrorist tool.
In the 1980s email was introduced to workplaces, and the whole world’s communication changed forever. In those days, information was sent out via email, and it spread only as quickly as people checked their emails (not counting the time it took for dial-up Internet to connect, as well!). Now, with just one click, an enormous amount of potentially crucial information can reach millions of people within seconds.
Social Media on the Modern Day Battlefield Risks Operational Security
This has had a tremendous impact on the way the military operates. Social media is not something which can be ignored; the majority of serving members of the military have grown up with social media. It has to be accepted and embraced as it has become such a big part of everyday life. The Department of Defense did exactly that in 2010, making social media accessible to service men and women on work computers.
The cause for concern comes in where there is such a fine line between what information is official, and what is not. Twenty or thirty years ago, an official statement was made, and that was taken as fact. Fast forward to now, and anyone can post information, thoughts, opinions, viewpoints, experiences, pictures and hearsay, which some people may mistakenly take to be an official statement. This can be damaging, and even dangerous.
As it has become so much easier for information to enter the public domain, soldiers have also been placed at a much higher risk than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. It was much easier to keep details of their locations and operations secret before the days of social media. Information was kept on a need-to-know basis. These days, with the uploading of a single picture or a simple message posted about homecomings, details are put out there which can potentially put soldiers’ lives at risk, if it gets into the wrong hands.
Once information has been sent into cyberspace, there is no way to get it back, and even if it is deleted, there’s no way of knowing just who might have seen it or what website archived it. All you need to do is check out twitchy.com to see some of the best archived tweets around. This is one of the major downsides to social media and the military, as it’s so hard to tackle. There are guidelines for service personnel and their families on how to conduct themselves online, but this is certainly something which soldiers of years gone by never even had to think about. Always remember operational security when posting to social media sites.
Whether we like it or not, social media has affected all of our lives. It is something which the military has had to tackle head on, and it definitely has its advantages. On one hand, the ability to release information quickly and easily is a useful tool for the Department of Defense. On the other hand, there are always risks surrounding what information is released and when. Keeping in touch with friends and family is always a plus point, but communicating with potentially dangerous individuals is risky. It seems as though social media has both advantages and disadvantages for the military. It is, however, something that they don’t really have a choice about. Social media is growing exponentially these days, or so it seems. When you consider how far technology has brought us over the last thirty years, where will the next thirty take us? Post your comments below!