ANKARA: Social media has become one of the most important instruments of hybrid warfare which is named the new generation warfare method, said a Turkish digital media researcher.
According to the general definition, hybrid warfare is one of the war strategies that combine political warfare, conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyber warfare methods, including fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral intervention.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Ali Murat Kirik, an academician and expert digital media researcher at Marmara University in Istanbul, increasing activities of perception management and social engineering in social media proves that it is used as a warfare tool.
Social media and manipulation
Stressing the information pollution in social media, said Kirik, unfortunately, the reality has been lost at present.
"Social media can shape perceptions and re-design societies. It can increase sensitivities and can harden the reactions in societies. Anything can transform into reality through social media and, society can be a part of this simulation or the artificial world," he said.
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According to Kirik, social media can manipulate reality, therefore, it can be used to weaken a country's administration, society, army, or economy.
“For example; due to trade wars between China and the US, both countries used social media as a battlefield and caused a lot of information pollution. Twitter and Facebook announced that they deleted, blocked, and suspended some of the China-based social media accounts, but the same thing did not happen in the US,” he said.
Social media, revolt and civil war
Highlighting the power of manipulation in social media, Kirik said the influence power of social media can cause internal conflicts, social polarization, and radicalism.
“Manipulative contents, especially about sensitive and controversial issues in society, cause disputes and conflicts in virtual platforms. And this issue, unfortunately, transfers to the real environment,” he said.
He said due to fake, false or manipulative contents and social media trolls, a struggle or fight occurs between state and society or among different groups in society.
"Even if the truth is revealed, it is quite difficult to break wrong perceptions or misunderstandings. Because people want to support everything that reflects their own opinion. This situation causes a decrease in the questioning ability of people. Therefore, chaos is triggered in society,” he said.
He said the protests beginning under the name of the Arab Spring and the incidents following the protests are the best examples of this.
According to Kirik, people's sense of trust towards the state and other groups in society is deliberately destroyed.
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“Because it is easier to rule the subconscious of the polarized or radicalised people,” he said, adding that the uncontrolled and unrestrained infrastructure of social media causes this situation.
Possible to predict intervention, military operation on social media?
Underlining the importance of big data, Kirik said it can be predicted that whether there will be a conflict, intervention, or military operation in a region by following the mobility on social media.
“States already use social media extensively for psychological warfare methods, such as smear campaigns and propaganda, and to take instant intelligence from operation areas. In this way, states do not only try to persuade their communities for an intervention or a military operation but they also try to separate and weaken the societies in the opponent states,” he said.
Kirik said the basis of possible war or intervention is built on social media in modern-day.
"For example, following the US President Trump's tweets targeting Iran, Qasem Soleimani, Commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was assassinated by the US," he said.
According to Kirik, if these movements in social media are analyzed well, it can be seen which country is in a psychological war, and which country is the next target.
People should be taught digital media literacy to raise awareness against the social media that is nowadays used as an effective tool, he stressed.