Are Facebook and Twitter essential to national security? Two researchers at the National Defense University say the answer is yes and they are calling on the Pentagon to use social media to improve information gathering.
Q: Why would the Defense Department use social media?
A: The authors of the study from the National Defense University believe that friends and adversaries of the United States are using social media sites.They say that if the government doesn’t make use of these new technologies, they will fall behind and not be aware of arising threats. They recommend the use of social media internally to break down communication barriers within the department – which they call inbound sharing – which would also include information and tips coming in from the public to the Defense Department. They also recommend outbound sharing where DoD disperses information to the public and other countries.
Q: Is the concern that social media could be used to organize attacks?
A: It’s already happening. In Pakistan, Columbia and Egypt protests have been organized and in Mumbai, India, firsthand accounts were coming from the Taj Mahal and Oberi hotels that were under attack last November as the siege was in progress. Defense Department officials say that not being involved in social media is a greater risk than anything that may be encountered from being involved. Listening to public conversations could prevent larger controversies and backlashes against the United States.
Q: Is the Defense Department doing this now?
A: In a limited way, for instance the Department has reached out to bloggers. This research goes much further and encourages a comprehensive use of the tools. For some Defense agencies it would only mean disseminating information to the public. For the intelligence community within Defense it might mean focusing on collecting and sharing information internally and monitoring threats internationally.