Social media has gone viral on the Internet over recent years, not just because it is a convenient software tool for communication but since it also provides an opportunity for social grouping and integration. Thanks to its unification of the masses presenting opinions, and general perspective on current affairs, social media has become the most important social institution influencing social populism leading to serious social changes.
Since the beginning of 2011, we have had a wave of demonstrations, followed by political coups and “color revolutions,” covering almost all of North Africa and the Middle East throughout the transformation of the world’s political map. This activity, implemented by Washington and London, is tailored to their interests. Events unfolded almost according to the same scenario: a small group of young people dissatisfied with the political authorities’ actions created a group in a social network controlled by the West. Through social media, they organize a street action, most often a demonstration with anti-government slogans. Calls for public events and messages actively spread throughout the Internet with a calling to take to the streets in a larger and more cohesive group. Single and small in number protest actions soon turned into thousands of frequenting public demonstrations.
Social media has very quickly become a means of implementing revolutionary achievements and an environment where an individual has the opportunity to become an author of messages, expressing his or her position relating to any issue by writing a comment or a message. This feature of social media contributes to the growth of populism in society, and soon many politicians learned to use it to their advantage. Their presence on the Internet now plays a tremendous role in creating their public image and seriously affects society in general. Do you recall the active presence of Barack Obama in social media in 2008? That presence largely influenced his victory in the US Presidential election.
As a result, the Internet has become actively used to promote political figures and as a means of two-way communication with voters, where blogs and social media covering the most pressing problems in society and the reaction of ordinary people to certain political decisions can be tracked. The fact that the current US President Donald Trump regularly uses social media in his activities can serve as clear evidence of this.
Intelligent services also actively use social media in their activities to monitor users and conduct information warfare and propaganda that benefits the authorities compromising undesirable politicians, public figures, and countries. And it can now be found in the activities of Western intelligence agencies, especially in regards to the United States and Great Britain, which have been trying to increase the information war first against Russia over the last few decades, and now against China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria to serve their political masters from Washington. For example, the Russiagate campaign unleashed by the intelligence services under the supervision of the United States’ well-known political forces scandalously after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, representative of the Republican Party.
And today, inspired by the same forces in social media with active participation of already discredited publications as lackeys of information warfare in the United States, The New York Times and The Washington Post, a new, and failing, propaganda operation on the alleged guilt of Russia’s plot with the Taliban (banned in Russia) in the assassination of American soldiers in Afghanistan is taking place. However, the White House, representatives of many American intelligence services and the Pentagon have officially denied these Russo-phobic speculations. Moreover, Washington and the American intelligent services have long been closely cooperating with the Taliban on a regular basis. The United States itself was involved in the murder of Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan through structures and terrorist formations in this country, specially created by the CIA.
Britain has been actively waging information warfare on social media for a long time. And not only against Russia. In 2012, in Syria, while the British Parliament voted against any military intervention by London in the Syrian conflict, the British intelligence services deployed a series of secret programs, code-named “Operation Volute”. Using news agencies, social media, and companies working under contract with the British government, London tried to undermine official Damascus and strengthen the “moderate opposition’s” position. When the British Foreign Office was challenged with several questions about the threat of violating British law due to their propaganda operations in Syria, its representatives refused to answer them.
Today, only a small number of Internet users realize how powerful the “dark side” of Western social media has become; it is its shadow part that establishes the internal dynamic in countries, the political situation, and not the public wrapper, which is traditionally considered to be the only one that exists. Everything we do on social media is described by an algorithm under targeted ads settings. For sure, everyone has faced the fact that when we discuss something on social media or search for something in the browser, ads immediately appear for something similar. Also, it should be recalled that last year, Facebook said that users are being tracked even when GPS services are disabled on the device. This does not prevent them from fixing their geological location. Moreover, Facebook services can figure out places simply by IP addresses and marks on photos.
Social media never delete users’ personal information, which was officially confirmed in the mid-2010s during several lawsuits in the US and the European Union. They ruled in favor of complainants who accused Facebook of using their personal data illegally.
In countries with strongly pronounced anti-Russian rhetoric, the use of social media as another tool for waging an information war against Russia has already been streamlined under supervision by Washington and London. In Ukraine and on the territory of many countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union, local units of the hybrid war against the Russian Federation were deployed with active participation of Western curators. The author is referring, in particular, to the 72nd Information and Psychological Operations Center of Ukrainian Special Operations Forces – Ukrainian henchmen, supervised by NATO, engage in all sorts of information attacks on Russia, using any facts or newsworthy developments.
Similar structures now exist in the Baltic States and a number of other countries. Considering the transition to a higher level of hybrid warfare in the West, it is worth preparing for new information attacks, which may be staged by specialists of the 6th Division of the Field Army of the United Kingdom.
In addition, it is also important to consider that the American software, which is popular all over the world, can be actively used to carry out information attacks on individual users, as well as on entire groups of people and even the governments of countries through social media. It is necessary to realize that nowadays, services such as Facebook, Skype, and Gmail are the standard in the business sector. They are actively used by the US intelligence services and their allies. In late 2019, Priti Patel serving as Secretary of State for the Home Department, called on the Head of Facebook to provide the country’s intelligence services with a back door (a deliberately embedded fault in the program’s algorithm that allows unauthorized access to data) to encrypted user messages.
Therefore, in the near future, we can only expect a further increase in the US and its allies’ information and propaganda war through social media, reinforcing the use of the information space and controlled social media by the special services of these countries against their users.
Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.