Defending a Military Force from Social Media Warfare Tactics

Defensive and counteroffensive social media warfare tactics have become essential to protecting a fighting force. Many defensive tactics are always in play, including self-validation, influencing, and relationship building. These activities have been essential for military success for centuries and now they can be supported or nullified using social media applications. In fact, it is probably far more difficult to deploy these tactics without using social media applications, because they have become so entrenched as modern communication tools. Defensive tactics and their targets are shown in Table 3.2.

The target audiences for defensive social media warfare tactics are shown in the far-left column of Table 3.2; they include the major expeditionary force, advisors, and allied troops as the primary target audience for self-validation tactics. Local loyal troops, governments, organizations, and civilians are the primary target audience for influence, reinforcement, and relationship building tactics. All audiences are targets of recruitment and indoctrination tactics, and the persuasion of non- aligned entities, which all audiences can contribute to, even if ever so slightly and

Table 3.2 Defensive Social Media Tactics in Conflict Environments

Target Audience

Applied Social Media Warfare Tactics





Recruiting and indoctrination




Allied troops

Local loyal troops


Local loyal government


Persuasion of non- aligned entities

Local loyal organizations



Local loyal civilians

probably more indirectly, by reinforcing the legitimacy of the mission. The basic goals of each tactic are as follows:

  • ? Self-validation, or assuring the world of the validity and legitimacy of a position or action that an organization or individual takes, is common practice in virtually all conflict situations.
  • ? Influencing aligned entities, or working to convince allies of the validity and legitimacy of a position or action taken by an organization or individual, goes one step beyond self-validation.
  • ? Reinforcing alliance partners is the process of publicly and noticeably showing support for an ally’s position or action.
  • ? Persuasion of non-aligned entities is the process of convincing non-allies of the validity and legitimacy of a position or action taken by an initiating entity and all the aligned entities involved in a position or action.
  • ? Recruitment and indoctrination is the process of aligning new entities or individuals to a social media warfare cause or any type of cause that has social media warfare components.
  • ? Relationship building is the process of establishing and nurturing cooperative efforts with like-minded people or organizations.
  • ? Nullifying opponents is the process of discrediting opponents in the eyes of alliance partners or non-partners that an alliance, nation, or organization is attempting to influence.

The nature of defensive social media warfare tactics was discussed in Chapter 1: “A Framework to Analyze Emerging Social Media Warfare Strategies.”

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