Social Media and the New Frontiers of War

According to a press conference statement by US Air Force General Hawk Carlisle, a selfie posted to a social media sight by an ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) fighter led to a successful US airstrike against an ISIS command-and-control facility in Syria. The airstrike follows the announcement that between 10 and 13,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since US operations began, but that the overall strength of ISIS remained unaffected due to successful recruitment of new fighters by the organization.

ISIS has made effective use of social media to recruit new fighters, reaching a following of more than 200,000 through Twitter and other social media sites. But as the story suggests, the organization’s use of social media represents a double-edged sword, as it provides its opponents with intelligence regarding the organization’s operations and status.

What do you think? How has the use of social media affected the conduct of war in the 21st century? How will future conflicts (military, economic, or otherwise), look different as a result of social connectivity? How does the recent report of Chinese hacking into US federal employee databases fit into this context? And how should governments adapt to the new landscape?

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