The social media has made communication between people near seamless and instant. A photo taken on a cell phone of say a tank in a particular area can be uploaded and shared worldwide in seconds and that picture can then be interpreted to the users needs. This is effective propaganda and the image need not even be totally correct or within the parameters of the all important “caption” that will immediately incense readers that the tank in the image is in fact being used as is described.
Propaganda is as old as the hills and apparently human gullibility seems to be even older.
The social media is a great way to pass along instant information but is at the mercy of those who are bent on twisting what we see, it is in those first few seconds of viewing an image or inflammatory comment that humans make their minds up on a topic and it is very hard to sway those beliefs even if they are wrong and proven to be false. The conspiracy side of the human nature still harbours these thoughts regardless. It`s a case of once the seed is planted it is as good as a done deal. Conducting military operations today is a difficult prospect due to the sheer number of civilians who have cell phones that have semi decent digital cameras and instantaneous internet connectivity to a plethora of social media portals at a single click of a button on the hand held device. Operational security or OPSEC is especially difficult and this has been seen in recent years all over the middle East and most notably during the Osama Bin Laden raid when a chopper being used by SEAL team 6 went down and within seconds Twitter was chock a block with Tweets pertaining to the action unfolding in the streets of down town Abbottabad. The prep work for this operation must have been done in total secrecy and with the fewest possible people in the proverbial loop when it came to the time, date, details of the raid ,however before the SEAL team had even landed at their primary objective their presence over the skyline of Abbottabad had been not only detected but reported on Twitter and then Face book et al.
Surprise is ultimately the first victim of social media.
Face book for example can easily be used to spread either fact or fiction of unfolding events and more importantly can also be a fantastic way for “Government” agencies to infiltrate groups be they closed or even "secret" by simply creating a fictitious Face book page that leans towards the group and their political leaning or social stance that they are trying to garner info from. People are inherently stupid and wildly egotistical and gauge their "popularity" on the amount of friends or likes they collect. This approach opens them to infiltration by “Government” agents and the best part is that it is basically for free other than the few cents it costs to go online to get updates and rants from members of groups.
With modern cell phones like Black Berry, Iphone, Samsung galaxy et al these updates appear on your hand held anywhere you may be in the world at the time it was posted.
I belonged to a group that had a "secret" moniker but it`s ranks were filled with "tourists" and “rubber neckers” who were never properly vetted so anything posted by members and topics discussed were open to scrutiny by any number of ominously "quiet" members who were always hanging around but never actually made any contribution. I had warned the "admin" of the group that there were murmurings via the message service that some members within the group suspected there were "agents" as it were sussing out the groups politics and current leaning. The group was in the line of PMC (private military company) territory and there were members in the group who were currently serving in various parts of the Middle East as “security professionals” for want of a better term and it is disconcerting when other members never seem to post but are always around when certain members who are currently deployed pop in to say hello from time to time.
These shadow members that only become visible via a “like” somewhere or other or a strange comment from left field that is totally out of line with the current thread makes people jumpy and a quick click on the shadow member reveals in many cases a stock picture of something trivial as a profile picture, nonsensical data in the job and likes section and almost always a totally closed profile. At first some members scoffed at this but in short time i noted that the ranks had been thinned quite substantially with all remaining members required to “speak up” and make themselves heard to the group and also give some details about themselves to the group such as military back ground, units served in and post pictures of themselves as verification. Within groups who wish to maintain a certain amount of either exclusivity or anonymity it is imperative that the members within the group are vetted and can be trusted with where they have been, which units (companies) they have served with and what the individuals say they have done can be confirmed beyond a doubt.
It is also imperative to not splash your entire profile across the internet for the whole world to see but by the same token, if you are going to belong to a group who have similarly minded or experienced members like a military group or even a decoupage group then all the members must be open to those within the group and provide a “C.V” as such so as to prevent mud slinging within the group when personalities clash. Joining groups where you have no common denominator or interest simply makes that person a “tourist” and it will irk the other members eventually when the tourist makes silly comments that annoy the rest of the group. Likewise, joining groups with the intent of sowing discord is a form of terrorism to that group and thereby it too is wise not to storm in and say things that could get you in hot water with your personal profile hanging wide open!
My point here is that in the aftermath of the Ander`s Beiring Breivik shooting spree in Norway a slew of pro and anti Ander`s sites sprung up. Many of the pro face book pages were home to some of the dumbest Neo Nazi types i have yet come across. These fools were joining the pro groups and also the Anti pages in support of the gunman and with totally open profiles were saying inflammatory statements that bordered on war talk. Their home towns, cell numbers, email addresses, favourite restaurants were on display for all to see.(( Especially the security apparatus!)) Many of these “Darwinists” had among their “likes” links and associations to the “I love Hitler” type groups and an assortment of other supremacist groups and clubs. Many have profile pictures of their Swastika tattoos showing while clutching assault rifles , shot guns , pistols or other obvious”air soft guns”. I have ex military back ground and do have pictures when I was in the military and even in Angola with EO where I am in a picture holding a weapon but I sure don`t display it as my personal profile picture some 20 years down the line and then openly support defunct hate groups whose ranks are made up of the “shallow end of the gene pool”. What the haters and radicals do not seem to comprehend is that they are building cases against themselves which when they inevitably do something wrong and get caught will have provided the state with first hand evidence and in many cases photographic evidence supporting the state in its case against the dummy who is making the states case for them against himself and at a fraction of the cost the state would usually have needed to go out and investigate the tool in the first place. ** I trust I have made it super duper clear about how the states case could be made by the offender?**
What is placed on Face book even after it is deleted remains in the ether net and within Face books records. At any time you can request Face book to send you all information from your profile from day of inception to the last click. You will receive a disk with Everything you have posted on Face book from your drunken status updates 4 years ago to the changes in friends and relationship status. In extreme cases the Government under the new terror and security laws that govern the world can get these details for use against you! Face book have already in the past handed entire profile accounts over to various Government agencies to be used in the investigation of subversives and other criminals. I would not at all be surprised if the Osama Bin Laden raid came about due to lazy or unprotected social media traffic protocols between supporters of Bin Laden in Pakistan and others within Al Qaeda networks. It would almost be quite fitting that Face book led to him being shot in the face. I am very sure that Face book , Linkedin, Twitter or any of the other social media were hacked and traced in order to locate Osama in the end. An eye witness in or around Abbottabad is good but a digital “IP address” is even better. Now I am by no long shot a computer wizard but I know enough that tracing via IP addresses is done and it is very precise. Precise enough to let a member of a SEAL team rock up at your house and shoot you in the eye!
There is a group on Face book that is centered around the old SADF and border war and i must admit i do visit it and did belong to it as it was a great place for pictures and the sort. The problem is the sheer amount of members and their constant chest heaving, with everyone dismissing each others arm of the service as being dummies. This is in poor taste and not what the group was originally set up to be. Originally these types of specialist groups are formed to reminisce about the good old days the camaraderie and bond of brotherhood that exists between men and women who served in the military. Unfortunately the overtly political talk that goes on is not too wise as it is an open group. In the race for members to beat their opposition Face book group they don`t spend a second contemplating who they are admitting to the group hereby opening themselves to lets say for arguments sake a member of the state security apparatus to join and have up to the second Intel on the group and it`s very vocal Anti current establishment rhetoric. Most groups do not even bother checking that the current work or employed at of the person wishing to join the group. In many cases a quick look at these simple details shows that they are currently in the police, active members of the ANC, current SANDF soldiers etc yet they are added to simply hunt the 6000 + member mark. Those that are currently working for lets say the Police, SANDF or are card carrying members of the ANC are being paid by these groups in some cases and therefore they are to an extent loyal to these groups. On the group page they are literally bombarded by comments, re posts from daily news papers and photos showing the Government, military and police in fantastically bad light and then wonder why there are huge open spats within the group when one member tries to side with another member who has differing opinions with the group as a whole. People get turfed out and blocked from the group which leads to more mud slinging and inflammatory speech which the “currently employed police man” reads and then simply “shares” the tirade of hate and anti government rhetoric with one of his pals or superiors in the police, if he cannot share the piece due to the group being locked he simply then copies and pastes as he pleases.
Gone almost are the days where infiltrating groups and learning secret hand shakes was the only way to get in deep undercover. Modern peoples inherent laziness and need for instant gratification and knowledge has made Face book one of the best tools that Governments can utilize in their fight against uprising and it is affordable to boot. The people on Face book need to post with care what they say and how they say it. The use of humour in writing or ranting is one way to ensure personal safety as the "funny" anecdotes will not necessarily be taken as seriously as a directed assault on a group or Government agency. Members of the group who are part and parcel of the uprising for instance will see past the seemingly silly tirade and “joking” but the Government will have a hard time proving that the postings are seditionist or treasonous. Unfortunately as described before, people`s vanity for fame and "likes" allow many "dummits" into the fray and these are the undesirables who cannot see the forest for the trees and are not capable of reading between the lines. These dim bulbs are the ones who openly and vacuously make statements that bring the group to the fore and are then elevated to "flagged".
Flagging is not a myth and is practised by all governments every day especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the now very protracted “war on terror”. In the last six paragraphs I have possibly been flagged a minimum of ten times. The use of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Treason, Terrorist, 9/11,War On Terror, are all words that immediately get flagged as soon as it hits the net. The Americans have an enormous “Mountain Lair” in Utah called the NSA data center where all traffic on the net that has a certain amount of flagged words or phrases in them is collated , extrapolated and the content scrutinized and information disseminated from there to personnel to deal with accordingly. ( WOW I have always wanted to use all those in one sentence, flippin cool.)
On a serious note though it is a reality and what we post on the net is eventually seen and it is never lost even if you delete it! Take for example the “sexy” picture someone once took of an ex girlfriend posing nude and posted it one drunken evening on the net. That picture has an address and will live there on the net forever and will someday be found and re posted much to the poor girls horror who 15 years on has married and is the wife to a pastor in some very conservative community and here this picture surfaces of her drunk as a skunk with legs parted like the Red sea.
I once suggested to a group that was been started with the hopes of becoming a decent Anti Poaching unit that the use of a "Secret Group" would be an excellent resource for instantaneously transmitting data amongst members in the office and on the ground allowing photos, commands, location, co ordinates etc to be sent in seconds.
( All or nearly all game farms have signal coverage to cater for their guests so they can upload pictures as they happen like when a giraffe saunters past and within seconds share these gems with the family back in Idaho etc.)My reasoning for this low Tech albeit semi safe way of Comms was due to the glaring fact that we were working with an almost zero budget to start with and small things like two way radios were still a fantasy. With the group being "secret" only members could see posts and then the members had to be kept to an absolute minimum to prevent "cross pollination" and dissemination of Intel to other parties. The use of Face book to set up a quick, inexpensive and moderately secure network in the fight against poaching made sense as we basically only had cents to start with. We would not have to puke out thousands of Rands to set up a network from scratch as Face book had already done that. The only weak link in the chain here would be that members of the group who were chosen would leak vital info onto the general page that was set up alongside the secret one. The general page was to be utilised as a home page, info and fund raising page. We would need constant funding from the private sector to get this project going and we had to have it set up logically and functioning on both plains, the open and secret one. Things were progressing well but the fear of allowing too many non critical members into the secret group caused hurt feelings among the hordes of self pontificating arm chair activists who had joined the general page and wanted then to immediately be allowed into the secret page which was for all intense purposes the “operational” page. These people want to join and be privy to the operative page because they fancy themselves members of distinction because they have joined the general page but only want to click a like button and mentally believe that by doing so some imaginary money fell from the sky and saved a Rhino.
We were doomed to failure on two fronts, the first were the aforementioned passively indignant tourists and the other was from within the inner circle, our leader. It became clear that this whole endeavour was primarily set up for his own gratification and benefit. So a potentially successful idea and effort was shot down from the highest rank, our fears of the members integrity ensuring secrecy and responsible posting was for nothing. Our initial fear was outsiders seeing our posts or hearing in on our radio chatter IF we ever got to the two way radio stage .Funding was a massive problem. Everyone wants to save the Rhino but it became a case of - - -NO Bucks = No Buck Roger`s.- - - The only other people who could see the posts are those at Face book themselves unfortunately.
The social media has become a valuable tool in spreading both information and disinformation equally and it is up to the users to utilize the medium to their benefit by being INTELLIGENT. A good example of how the social media can be used to spread disinformation is the latest Face book page that sprung up and has had thousands of hits and literally hundreds of likes pertaining to the false reporting of the death of Morgan Freeman this past Saturday (08 September 2012). Many other celebrities have in the near past been the target of this "guerilla" tactic.
These Face book pages are designed with the express intention of spreading sensationalism and for personal jollies by the creator who can then boast about his 10000 likes! It is truly dilly but that is the ultimate goal with these particular pages. Whether Morgan likes this we don`t know but the publicity in Hollywood is worth a fortune.
The social media has shrunk the world and made information available easier than ever before. People need to close their profiles just a tad and post with care and a sense of humour to avoid late night visits from very unfriendly types, it also is no wonder that so many Face book users fall prey to stalkers and the such with their stupid status updates that run like a moment for moment account of their every move. For example, “went to gym at virgin active down the road from home”. A quick trawl of their profile shows they live in Sandton. Next update says how they are having their "fave Latte at Oscar`s" where they just tagged themselves and posted a picture of the Latte which shows details in the background that would be of interest to the would be stalker. The stalker simply types in the search bar " Oscar`s cafe Sandton" and then gets their physical address and number from their profile which will be open to the public as they are a business and thus want everyone in creation to know exactly where they are. The next day the stalker is there and places himself close to the unwitting victim starting peripheral conversation about things that the victim just so happens to have in common even down to the Skinny Latte! By jove she may just have found her cosmic match!! ... Maybe not.... The case of the “Face book rapist” springs to mind here.
This then is the same for those who use Face book to get political ideologies across and make libellous and treasonous utterances without fully appreciating the size and make up of the audience you are reaching, there could be those you really don`t want to be reading your rhetoric either because of open profiles , un- vetted groups , friends of friends who see your posts and share your sentiments unwittingly or on purpose. There are people who are friends of my friends whom I don`t necessarily want as my friends or privy to my posts due to their lack of integrity or associations on their Face book page . My Face book page has a total of 12 friends and I post nothing other than silly Knick Knacks as my status updates, they usually start with “WISE JEDI SAYING” followed by some inconsequential blurb. I have a relatively closed profile but do allow some things to be public, namely some photos of days gone by. Yes there is a little bit of a narcissistic side to me as there is with everyone on the planet and that is why we all open social media accounts and put pictures on them. That narcissism if not kept in check can be the down fall of the group, person or ideal and when bandied around and used to character assassinate individuals to their own end can have a back fire effect that could lead to social disgrace or in extreme cases imprisonment or even death.
The social media has changed the world and it`s approach to the dissemination of intelligence and reporting of the news. It`s a tool that is very handy and equally dangerous and is just about FREE.