A Framework to Analyze Emerging Social Media Warfare Strategies

Warfare and the development and definition of warfare strategies and tactics have long been dominated by military leaders, planners, and field commanders. The principles laid out by Sun Tzu in The Art of War have stood the test of time, war after war. Indeed, military science has advanced in part because of need and in part because of the growth and maturity of military academies and warfare colleges that support a structured and disciplined study of warfare strategies and tactics. Social media warfare has become a topic of study in military science and will play a bigger role in future conflicts. This chapter introduces the basic concepts and definitions of social media warfare.

New Definition of War

Through the centuries, perspectives on war have evolved. By necessity, these perspectives were once dominated by a traditional warfare approach, wherein military forces went face to face against other military forces in a relatively well-defined theater of war and with a fairly well-defined theater strategy. In the twenty-first century, we are firmly entrenched in the age of irregular warfare and unconventional warfare, where the theater of war is far less well-defined and theater strategy must be fluid and adaptable, including in and through cyberspace.

Many factors have influenced a shift to the dominance of irregular warfare and unconventional warfare. These include shifting political and social alliances as well as economic conditions that have increased the availability of funding for non-traditional forces. With this new funding, non-traditional forces can obtain a variety of weapons to combine with the age-old skills of improvising affordable and effective weapons to meet combat needs in a particular theater of war. There has also been another very important factor contributing to the shift, a globally accessible means of communications and participation: the Internet and all its offerings of connectivity, social media applications, and tools of cyber warfare.

In many ways, the Internet has made insurgency easier to initiate and maintain. The Internet has opened the realm of warfare not only to insurgents fighting against a government, but also to social, cultural, economic, and religious factions around the world wishing to fight and harm each other. The Internet has enabled these factions to intentionally inflict harm on each other without guns and often without face-to-face confrontation. Welcome to the age of social media warfare, which provides equal weapons for all.

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