Warfare is a constantly changing landscape, from the weapons that are used to the battlefields they’re fought on. Amidst mountains of Snowden leaks from the NSA and GCHQ, it’s no longer a mystery that the digital warfare is advancing quickly, and the British Army just upped its digital artillery.
A new group of soldiers, referred to as “Facebook Warriors” will ” wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns,” according to the Financial Times. This unit will be named the 77th battalion, whose number also has a historical significance. FT says:
The original Chindits [77th battalion] were a guerrilla unit led by the swashbuckling British commander Major General Orde Wingate, one of the pioneers of modern unconventional warfare. They operated deep behind Japanese lines in Burma between 1942 and 1945 and their missions were often of questionable success.
These Facebook warriors will be using similar atypical tactics, through non-violent means, to fight their adversary. This will mainly be achieved through “reflexive control,” an old Soviet tactic of spreading specifically curated information in order to get your opponent to react in the exact way you want them to. It’s a pretty tricky trick, and the British army will be doing just that with 1,500-person (or more) troop using Twitter and Facebook as a means to spread disinformation, real war truths, and “false flag” incidents as well as just general intelligence gathering. The 77th battalion will reportedly begin operations in April.
Britain is far from the only country making a social media-focused investment. The Guardian notes that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) used 30 different social media sites in several different languages during Operation Cast Lead in an effort to “engage with an audience we otherwise wouldn’t reach,” says an IDF spokesperson. ISIS is also annoyingly adept at recruiting through social media and its sympathizers have hacked the U.S. military’s social media accounts, including U.S. Central Command.