Monday, August 15, 2011

Pentagon to use Facebook, Twitter as a resource and weapon

This is no great surprise after the recent comments on the social media's role in civil unrest - yet it's been on the agenda for quite a while, just surfacing now that public opinion is more open to the possibility:

The Pentagon is developing plans to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as both a resource and a weapon in future conflicts. Its research and development agency is offering 42 million dollars in funding to anyone who can help, the New York Times reports.

According to the NYT article, social media will change the nature of warfare just as surely as the telegraph, the radio and the telephone did, and the Pentagon does not want to be caught falling short on this score.

Some of its goals were laid out in a document being circulated among potential researchers and is to be presented at a briefing on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia, at the offices of the military contractor System Planning Corporation. As social media play increasingly large roles in fomenting unrest in countries like Egypt and Iran, the U.S. military wants systems to be able to detect and track the spread of ideas both quickly and on a broad scale.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting innovative proposals to help build what would be, at its most basic level, an Internet meme tracker. It would be useful to know, for instance, whether signs of widespread rebellion were authentic or whether they were being created by a fringe group with little real support. Among the tools the successful seeker of government funding might choose to employ: linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining.

Social networks can allow the military not only to follow but also to shape the action.

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