So, let’s pretend you’re the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and you’re trying to conduct an air campaign over Libya in support of local rebels. But the UN mandate for your mission does not allow any ground operations. Without any eyes on the ground, how do you plan your attacks? If you answered, “Twitter,” than you might have a future in tactical planning.
AFP reports that many publicly available sources like Twitter and other social networking services are being monitored around the clock for actionable intelligence. One unnamed NATO official is quoted as calling Twitter a “great source” for information. From tweets, NATO has learned of troop movements, tank columns, and other tidbits of battlefield info. Of course, bombs aren’t falling out of the sky based on tweets alone; what is gleaned from the internet is used in conjunction with satellite imagery and other more “traditional” forms of intelligence.
In the past years, we’ve seen Twitter and online social media become closely associated with movements for social change. During the fallout from the 2009 elections in Iran and as part of the Arab Spring, these services have come to be known as integral tools for harnessing and motivating populations the world over. But that open, public nature also means that people are watching, and listening.
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