Pentagon tries to grok social media

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is stepping up its efforts to wage effective propaganda campaigns on various social networking sites.

Indeed, the recently unveiled Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) initiative is geared towards helping the military improve its understanding of what is trending in social media, while allowing the Pentagon to more precisely articulate its online voice.

But as Wired’s Adam Rawnsley notes, SMISC aspires to much more than “just checking” trending topics on Twitter.


“The DoD wants to deeply grok social media dynamics. So SMISC algorithms will be aimed at discovering and tracking the ‘formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)’ on social media,” wrote Rawnsley.

“[Obviously], DARPA’s not looking to track the latest twists on foul bachelor frog or see if the Taliban is making propaganda versions of courage wolf. Instead, it wants to see what ideas are bubbling up in among social media users in a particular area – say, where American troops are deployed.”

Therefore, SMISC will likely be (somewhat) capable of seeking out “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations,” as it quickly flags rumors and analyzes emerging themes.

For example, DARPA would like SMISC to eventually determine whether online rumors are somewhat legitimate, or simply being circulated in the context of a propaganda operation by a hostile entity.

Although DARPA’s SMISC remains in a nascent stage of development, it does indicate the importance the Pentagon places on monitoring various social media platforms.