NEWS22 July 2011

Darpa sees social media as new theatre of information war

Government North America

US— Businesses know the importance of tracking what’s going on in social media and responding where necessary – and it looks as if the US military does too.


The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency – known as Darpa – an arm of the Department of Defence responsible for researching future military technologies, has initiated a programme to develop systems for detecting and tracking the spread of messages, ideas and memes within social networks, to measure their influence and to implement “counter-messaging” campaigns.

More than $40m in funds has been set aside for the Social Media in Strategic Communications (SMISC) programme.

Darpa lists four main areas relevant to the programme:

  1. linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, narrative structure analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining;
  2. meme-tracking across communities, graph analytics/probabilistic reasoning, pattern detection, cultural narratives;
  3. inducing identities, modelling emergent communities, trust analytics, network dynamics modelling;
  4. automated content generation, bots in social media, crowd sourcing.

“The conditions under which our armed forces conduct operations are rapidly changing with the spread of blogs, social networking sites, and media-sharing technology, and further accelerated by the proliferation of mobile technology,” writes Darpa in the SMISC announcement document.

“Changes to the nature of conflict resulting from the use of social media are likely to be as profound as those resulting from previous communications revolutions. The effective use of social media has the potential to help the armed forces better understand the environment in which it operates and to allow more agile use of information in support of operations.”

More details on the programme are available here.