Social media turns into real arms race

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Years ago when diplomats talked about an arms race they were generally talking about ships, aircraft and missiles. In the 1950s and 60s we were told how easy it would be to defeat the Viet Cong, who, we were told, were only clothed in black pajamas and BF Goodrich sandals.

Now, in this century, there is another kind arms race going on, and it isn't so much about seizing land as it is about winning hearts and minds. And it isn't about who has the best weapons and equipment, it's about who has the best social media.

We've known for some time now the Islamic State is using social media to recruit new members. Over the weekend we learned the Internet group Anonymous was coordinating a Distributed Denial of Service attack against these web sites. Then in response, the so-called Cyber Caliphate claims to have released the names, e-mail addresses and home addresses of several hundred members of the military.

Now ISIS has developed a smartphone app designed to run on Android phones. The app is supposedly more secure than Twitter and YouTube, which routinely delete the group's media accounts and video messages.

And after the attacks in Paris last month, governments around the world began to try to take steps to make it harder for ISIS to access readily available encryption programs.

Of course, monitoring and stopping recruiting messages is not the same as monitoring and stopping operational messages and content. But all sides seem to agree on the importance of winning hearts and minds.

During World War II both the allies and the axis powers used movies to aid recruitment and mold public opinion. And even Julius Caesar was not above using the social media of his day to influence both the public and the government. All this perfectly illustrates the diverse nature of warfare: the battle in the combat zone and the perhaps equally important battle on the home front.

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