Militaries And Social Media

dsd Originally published on The Pyambar .com on  2 April 2013.

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According to a news report, the Indian Army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI) furthered their public outreach by creating a Twitter account on Saturday with the handle @adgpi.

Since the time of World War II, the importance of psychological warfare has been identified, acknowledged, and put into practice by various militaries across the world.

The German propaganda minister Paul Joseph Goebbels along with his ministry played a pivotal role to glorify the image of German armed forces from 1933 to 1945. Over the last sixty years due to advancements in means and technologies of communication, the relationship of military and media has changed extensively.

From rudimentary wall posters to cold war era, anti USSR films the transition has been significant from print to electronic media. In 1991, during Gulf War-1 American forces operating against Saddam Hussein introduced effectively the embedded journalists into the fighting formations, which took the role of media to new heights.

Similar roles of media were observed in post 9/11 era with U.S invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq with footage streaming live from the combat zone. However, for the past few years the impact of social media had once again compelled militaries across the globe to redefine their psychological /information operations strategy and come up with effective usage of this medium against hostile forces.

US Military Presence on Social media
U.S military took the lead in introducing social media as a means to support its psychological operations worldwide. The official site of U.S military social media http://www.army.mil/media/socialmedia says that it has been “designed to serve as a consolidated registry and resource for all information regarding official Army presences on public social media sites.”

U.S Department of Defense and its components maintain thousands of Facebook pages. The Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/usforcesafghanistan is one of the main tools used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan to disseminate news and imagery from its operations, and counter and pre-empt extremist propaganda. The U.S military had effectively used social media for the moral boosting as well as for the recruitment purposes.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/business/media/25adco.html?_r=0

Keeping in view the security aspects, the U.S army social media handbook (3 rd version) launched in Jun 2012, to provide guidance to men in uniform regarding the usage of social media. http://armylive.dodlive.mil/index.php/2012/06/social-media-handbook-edition-3/

Similarly, the U.S department of defense has significant presence on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and other social media platforms.

THE TWITTER WAR – 1
The Israel-Gaza conflict in Nov 2012 became one of the first conflicts in which both sides used social media to shape the public opinion. The phenomenon, labeled as “Twitter War” took place between Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades and Israel Defense forces. On the morning of Wednesday 14 Nov,2012 IDF’s official account, @idfspokesperson, tweeted that they had embarked on ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’, a massive operation in Gaza against Hamas and Islamic Jehad targets. Hamas reacted quickly via tweet through @AlqassamBrigade to mourn the death of their leader Ahmed Jabari by Israeli drones earlier.

Tweets of Hamas and IDFs on Nov 14, 2012
As another offshoot to the same conflict, YouTube briefly removed a video on the official IDF channel that showed footage of the Ahmed Jabari’s assassination. YouTube later said the removal was a mistake. The next day of Israel’s aggression on Gaza Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took to twitter to add weigh on the crisis. After tweeting a photo of a young bleeding girl, Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel would not tolerate rocket attacks on its citizens. (Mr Natnyahus Tweet on Nov 15 2012)

Indian Army
Indian Armed Forces had so far an uneasy ride with social media. In Jan 2012, the Indian Army issued orders to its officers and other ranks to quit social networking sites such as Facebook, Orkut, etc immediately.

This came as a response to an earlier Naval Board of Inquiry that had recommended taking action against four senior naval officers who leaked confidential information on social networking sites divulging about the location of warships etc. A similar incidence happened in 2009, when the government advised the army to stay away from social networking sites and even banned social networking sites/picture sharing sites for the Indian diplomats.
http://lighthouseinsights.in/indian-army-says-no-to-social-media.html

Now with the announcement of the Indian Army’s presence on Twitter through the Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI) handle @adgpi, it remains to be seen how well the social media is handled through this new line of control. The tweet about a Para-jumping exercise in the company of armed forces from Bangladesh read:
“Friendship Para Jump done by the Special Forces of India & Bangladesh at Agra today.”

Succeeding tweets integrated photos of the jump. There were almost 1,800 followers before Sunday morning.
Ironically, within few hours of its launching, the name of twitter handle @adgpi itself came under criticism with suggestions to come up with more meaningful name to the world at large like @IndArmyInfo.

After all, every acronym is not as globally acceptable as #ddlj! (dil wale dulhanyia lai jain gain)!

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