Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Commanding the Trend: Social Media as Information Warfare

One derivative article is titled: Russia took to Twitter to stoke fear during protests at Mizzou: Report

</end editorial>

Lt Col Jarred Prier, USAF


This article demonstrates how social media is a tool for modern information-age warfare. It builds on analysis of three distinct topics: social networking, propaganda, and news and information sharing. Two case studies are used to show how state and nonstate actors use social media to employ time-tested propaganda techniques to yield far-reaching results. The spread of the propaganda message is accomplished by tapping into an existing narrative, then amplifying that message with a network of automatic “bot” accounts to force the social media platform algorithm to recognize that message as a trending topic. The first case study analyzes Islamic State (IS) as a nonstate actor, while the second case observes Russia as a state actor, with each providing evidence of successful influence operations using social media. Coercion and persuasion will continue to be decisive factors in information warfare as more countries attempt to build influence operations on social media.