During World War II, the British 77th Brigade went behind enemy lines and used unorthodox tactics against the Japanese in Burma. There hasn’t been a 77 since 1945, but it will return this year with a new kind of tactic: psychological operations (PsyOps) via social media.
A number of militaries around the world, including the US, Israeli, and Islamic State (ISIS) militaries, are already using social media to gather intelligence, spread propaganda, recruit soldiers, control overarching narratives, and communicate with other military groups. ISIS has been particularly effective in using social and other online publications to its advantage in recruiting.
The Guardian called the 77th Brigade a «Facebook warrior team» but if the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are any indication, their reach will extend well beyond Facebook: The IDF is active on 30 different platforms in six languages, and the United State Advanced Research Office The US Defense Department (DARPA) has included Pinterest and Kickstarter in its research.
How do the military use social media?
The military could use a form of sentiment analysis when preparing to conduct a propaganda campaign, engage in diplomacy, or recruit citizens as intelligence assets—all of which benefit from understanding how the public feels about a particular issue.
The chances of success in psychological and intellectual operations can be influenced by the general feelings of the population concerned, and sentiment analysis can provide insight into these feelings, which are much more natural and varied than other methods, and also less intrusive. ,
By gaining insight into how a particular group is feeling through sentiment analysis, the results can be used in other ways. One article (PDF download) gave this example:
[W] When anti-government messages are circulated on social media, the government would like to spread counter messages in order to balance these efforts and therefore identify people who are more likely to spread such counter messages based on their opinion.