Special Matarirano Correspondent

The question to many militaries in Africa and the world is; how prepared are militaries to engage social media in their war concepts of operations in order to control the narrative of the conflict?

A revolution has swept past the social, political and religious set-ups in our different cultures and societies in the world today. A new social friendly enemy has been born and has asserted its influence across a myriad human activities and endeavours, displacing the old status and establishing new social mobility corridors and avenues of approach to life and people’s existence.

The advent of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, blogs and a host of other social media applications, has effected changes to the major faculties and facets of people’s lives globally.

The military realm, which is the custodian of and the basis from which a society finds its defence and maintains its sovereign status and national integrity, has not been spared.

Mostly, social media has affected the art, methods, weapons, tactics and narratives used in the prosecution of modern warfare today.

Social media have attained the status of being a tool of the information warfare—a weapon of words that influences the hearts and minds of a target audience, and a weapon of mass instruction and or disruption that can have effects on the target in the physical world.

Its characteristics of conversationality, low-cost, being an audio-visual mass media, its domestic style, language, output and power of reach, act as force multipliers in increasing networking and intelligence capabilities.

The ability to rapidly disseminate graphic images and ideas to shape the public narrative of any critical national interest or endeavour, transforms social media into a strategic weapon in the hands of groups engaged in conflict.

Groups involved in a conflict can easily employ social media platforms to identify, radicalise and recruit new warriors and members; provide training tools and resources; raise money; publicise successes and shape public perception regarding ongoing hostilities.

Today’s wars point to terrorists and terrorism engineered threats, and have brought out the idea that social media is the preferred mass media method of warfare by most jihadists and terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda, for example, has a media apparatus that distributes video and graphic products online through jihadist forums, blogs and dedicated file-hosting websites.

This website can also carry comprehensive instructions on how to build and detonate bombs.

The question to many militaries in Africa and the world is; how prepared are militaries to engage social media in their war concepts of operations in order to control the narrative of the conflict?

For clarity’s sake, a narrative is some kind of retelling of something that happened (a story).

The narrative is not the story itself, but rather the telling of the story. While a story is a sequence of events, a narrative recounts those events, perhaps leaving some occurrences out because they are from some perceptive insignificant, and perhaps emphasising others.

Narratives thus shape history.

Narrative of a conflict is of paramount importance to the military today more than at any other time in the history of warfare. Wars in democratic societies are supposed to be justified.

The process of justification is mostly done through the mass media. Hence today social media have become a national discursive platform for any discourse. Its domestic style characteristic allows it to be a domestic tool particularly with the coming of smart phones, where people can access, view and listen and feed-back from their cars, private homes and other places.

WhatsApp and Facebook, for example, today are considered to be part and parcel of everyday family life.

The idea that these media platforms have become an integral part of daily life is further strengthened by Silverstone (1994), who says: “Browsing, discussing and chatting on Facebook and WhatsApp takes place on a minute bases (being) the result of focused or unfocused, conscious or unconscious attention.”

From this statement, one can observe how the above mass media have become important components in influencing the manner in which people lead their lives.

Control of the narrative of a conflict can easily be asserted through the conversational and interactivity of social media.

Today, YouTube, Facebook and Blogs are viewed as many-to-many communications tools providing interactivity and content on demand, especially when coupled with mobile devices. This surely redirects and shifts the arena of war. In Greece in December 2008, for example, social media was used to orchestrate demonstrations and gain foreign support following a police shooting and to raise economic concerns in the country.

The underlining narrative, as pushed through the mass media, was anti-government. The Arab Spring from Tunisia, Egypt and the civil war in Libya were narratives from scripts that found value in social media.

Social media have also worked to link various and different groups of people with the same interests together.

The terrorist groups like Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Shabaab in East Africa have developed websites that carry downloadable “e-jihad” application, through which a user can choose an internet target and launch a low level denial of service cyber-attack.

Hence, it is clear that social network tools can aid in providing material support for planned acts of belligerence, as well as for target acquisition through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia illustrates the role of social media in achieving multiple objectives. Ukrainian government networks have been targets of cyber-attacks that may have been coordinated by “patriotic hackers” using social media tools to organise, train, and equip themselves. Spyware was discovered on Ukrainian government systems that were believed to have been developed in Russia.

The Russian government has used the blogosphere to control the narrative of the conflict, allegedly by mobilising hacker collectives and encouraging them to maintain several accounts, and to post and comment on multiple social media outlets per day.

Militaries in Africa, should, therefore, be wary of the role of social media in determining the narrative of their conflicts and wars.

The questions that beg for answers: What plans are being put into social media aspects of any war in Africa? Does Africa envisage its next war?

How have militaries in Africa employed information-related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries?

Special MatariranoCorrespondentA revolution has swept past the social, political and religious set-ups in our different cultures and societies in the world today. A new social friendly enemy has been born and has asserted its influence across a myriad human activities and endeavours, displacing the old status and establishing new social mobility corridors and avenues of approach to life and people’s                                                         existence. The advent of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, blogs and a host of other social media applications, has effected changes to the major faculties and facets of people’s lives globally.The military realm, which is the custodian of and the basis from which a society finds its defence and maintains its sovereign status and national integrity, has not been spared. Mostly, social media has affected the art, methods, weapons, tactics and narratives used in the prosecution of modern warfare today. Social media have attained the status of being a tool of the information warfare—a weapon of words that influences the hearts and minds of a target audience, and a weapon of mass instruction and or disruption that can have effects on the target in the physical                                                                               world. Its characteristics of conversationality, low-cost, being an audio-visual mass media, its domestic style, language, output and power of reach, act as force multipliers in increasing networking and intelligence capabilities. The ability to rapidly disseminate graphic images and ideas to shape the public narrative of any critical national interest or endeavour, transforms social media into a strategic weapon in the hands of groups engaged in conflict.Groups involved in a conflict can easily employ social media platforms to identify, radicalise and recruit new warriors and members; provide training tools and resources; raise money; publicise successes and shape public perception regarding ongoing                                          hostilities.Today’s wars point to terrorists and terrorism engineered threats, and have brought out the idea that social media is the preferred mass media method of warfare by most jihadists and terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda, for example, has a media apparatus that distributes video and graphic products online through jihadist forums, blogs and dedicated file-hosting websites. This website can also carry comprehensive instructions on how to build and detonate bombs. The question to many militaries in Africa and the world is; how prepared are militaries to engage social media in their war concepts of operations in order to control the narrative of the conflict?For clarity’s sake, a narrative is some kind of retelling of something that happened (a story). The narrative is not the story itself, but rather the telling of the story. While a story is a sequence of events, a narrative recounts those events, perhaps leaving some occurrences out because they are from some perceptive insignificant, and perhaps emphasising others.Narratives thus shape                                                                              history.Narrative of a conflict is of paramount importance to the military today more than at any other time in the history of warfare. Wars in democratic societies are supposed to be justified. The process of justification is mostly done through the mass media. Hence today social media have become a national discursive platform for any discourse. Its domestic style characteristic allows it to be a domestic tool particularly with the coming of smart phones, where people can access, view and listen and feed-back from their cars, private homes and other                                                                                    places.WhatsApp and Facebook, for example, today are considered to be part and parcel of everyday family life. The idea that these media platforms have become an integral part of daily life is further strengthened by Silverstone (1994), who says: “Browsing, discussing and chatting on Facebook and WhatsApp takes place on a minute bases (being) the result of focused or unfocused, conscious or unconscious                                                                         attention.” From this statement, one can observe how the above mass media have become important components in influencing the manner in which people lead                                                                             their lives. Control of the narrative of a conflict can easily be asserted through the conversational and interactivity of social media. Today, YouTube, Facebook and Blogs are viewed as many-to-many communications tools providing interactivity and content on demand, especially when coupled with mobile devices. This surely redirects and shifts the arena of war. In Greece in December 2008, for example, social media was used to orchestrate demonstrations and gain foreign support following a police shooting and to raise economic concerns in the                                                country. The underlining narrative, as pushed through the mass media, was anti-government. The Arab Spring from Tunisia, Egypt and the civil war in Libya were narratives from scripts that found value in social media.Social media have also worked to link various and different groups of people with the same interests together. The terrorist groups like Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Shabaab in East Africa have developed websites that carry downloadable “e-jihad” application, through which a user can choose an internet target and launch a low level denial of service                                                                 cyber-attack. Hence, it is clear that social network tools can aid in providing material support for planned acts of belligerence, as well as for target acquisition through intelligence, surveillance and                                                                       reconnaissance.The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia illustrates the role of social media in achieving multiple objectives. Ukrainian government networks have been targets of cyber-attacks that may have been coordinated by “patriotic hackers” using social media tools to organise, train, and equip themselves. Spyware was discovered on Ukrainian government systems that were believed to have been developed in Russia. The Russian government has used the blogosphere to control the narrative of the conflict, allegedly by mobilising hacker collectives and encouraging them to maintain several accounts, and to post and comment on multiple social media outlets per day.Militaries in Africa, should, therefore, be wary of the role of social media in determining the narrative of their conflicts and                                                     wars. The questions that beg for answers: What plans are being put into social media aspects of any war in Africa? Does Africa envisage its next war? How have militaries in Africa employed information-related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries?