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Offensive Social Media Warfare Tactics

There is a long list of identifiable offensive tactics that can be used in social media warfare. In some cases, offensive tactics are basically defensive tactics applied with the purpose of attacking an entity, group, or a cause rather than in their defense. Irregular and unconventional warfare leaves open the possibility that a wide variety of tactics will be employed as situations change. Thus, there is a possibility of employing many different offensive social media warfare tactics. The effectiveness of a tactic depends on many factors including to what extent individuals in any given conflict situation have access to or use social media applications. Selected tactics are shown in Table 1.4.

Deception is the process of using invalid or false information or pretense to convince opponents that a specific position or proposition is true when there is no factual basis for the position. Deception is also the process of trying to influence an opponent or a potential supporter to support a specific position or action based

Table 1.4 Offensive Social Media Warfare Tactics

Deception: False promises and invalid information.

Confusion: Creating and perpetuating uncertainty.

Dividedness: Instigating hatred and suspicion.

Exposure: Unauthorized release of information

Trolling: Post opposing messages to existing posts.

Relationship building: Establishing cooperative efforts with likeminded people or organizations.

Nullify opponents: Efforts to discredit opponents.

Blended threats: Combined activities to accomplish offensive objectives.

on the belief that such support will lead to desired results for the potential supporter. The deceiver attempts to influence the target with a promise of results that the deceiver cannot or does not intend to provide.

Confusion tactics are processes designed to disorient and deceive opponents regarding what is real and not real. In many ways, this is a classic propaganda method that is meant to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It can involve misinformation about what has happened or what is about to happen, and is designed to disorient opposing organizations or individuals and stimulate actions on their part that are counterproductive or even self-destructive.

Divisive tactics involve instigating hatred and suspicion among opponents or the populace of an opposing nation or alliance. Such tactics have been very successful in the rise of fascism and racial and religious hatred. It does come back to the old adage, divide and conquer. It also works incredibly well on populations that feel disenfranchised or downtrodden.

Exposure tactics most often involve the unauthorized release of information that might embarrass or otherwise jeopardize the owner or creator of the exposed information. The most recent examples are the release of U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) material by Eric Snowden and WikiLeaks and the release of information hacked from political party computer systems that are discussed further in later chapters.

Trolling is the process of having troops respond to social media posts by commenting on existing posts in an attempt by individuals or in the name of organizations to influence, deceive, or recruit and indoctrinate. The effectiveness of this is yet to be proved, but given the propensity for trolling in social media, it is obvious that there are many who think it is effective. If nothing else, the act of trolling and opposing those with different beliefs may have a motivating effect on these “troops.”

Relationship building is the process of establishing and nurturing cooperative efforts with like-minded people or organizations. As an offensive tactic, the goal is usually to persuade alliance partners or non-aligned organizations and individuals that an offensive action was justified.

As in defensive social media warfare opponent nullification processes, offensive nullification efforts are considered first strike or preemptive strike efforts. This means that the target alliance, nation, or organization had not previously tried to nullify the positions or actions of the attackers. Nullifying opponents as an offensive tactic is the process of discrediting opponents in the eyes of alliance partners or non-partners that an alliance, nation, or organization is attempting to influence. Nullifying efforts can reinforce existing positive relationships and help build new relationships. The nullification process usually involves debasing or demonizing the ideological or political views of opponents. It can also involve discrediting or invalidating the positions taken by opponents based on supposed but inaccurate empirical information or data.

Blended threats are combined activities designed to accomplish offensive objectives. This includes deception tactics combined with trolling opponents to help legitimize the deceptive post of an aggressor. In a blended offensive situation, multiple social media platforms can be used along with mixed media methods including texts, photos, or videos. This is the modern approach to classic propaganda campaigns.

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