A book called #TheWeaponizationOfSocialMedia by Danish social media and cyber warfare expert Thomas Elkjer Nissen is now available in Estonian. The book was launched in Tallinn on Tuesday with support from the Estonian Ministry of Defense.
#TheWeaponizationOfSocialMedia was published in English in March. Nissen works at the Royal Danish Defense College.
“For a long time, I've been studying how information and media in general have been used in conflicts and wars and it's just been a natural progression to look at how the Internet and specifically social media has been used,” Nissen told ERR.
At the launch, Nissen said that he first came into contact with many of the things explored in the book in Estonia in 2007, following the cyber attacks. “One of the points where you see social media being used today is to do with what is called social engineering. You take pieces of history, which are known to everybody, but the actual interpretation of them is contested by a lot of people. That is just one of the many things social media is being used today in conflicts,” Nissen said.
“The primary purpose of this book is trying to create a framework for understanding how social media are being used today for collecting intelligence on people and issues, for targeting – who to try to influence and who to try to hack, for warfare and deception, and for command and control purposes,” Nissen summarized.
Uku Arold, specialist at the Estonian Defense Forces Headquarters' Strategic Communication Department who edited Nissen's book, told ERR how a bogus Facebook account was used to befriend an Estonian officer in a hope to gather information for intelligence purposes.
Arold also said that the department has seen how stories of Estonia being invaded in 15 minutes tend to appear in the social media and internet commentaries en masse and by waves. “That's an example of using social media to influence public opinion,” he explained.
Estonia then has first hand experience on how social media can be used to manipulate people, but also on how people themselves can use social media tools to influence businesses and decision-making.
An example of the latter is a boycott on Rimi, one of Estonia's largest retail stores, a few years ago, after a Facebook group called for the return of locally-produced meat to its shelves, said Päivi Tampere, Lecturer of PR studies at Tallinn University. According to her, this experience influenced Rimi's decision to a degree for quite some time.
Nissen himself summarized social media as a weapon that everyone can use and that can be used on everyone.