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DARPA Seeks To Learn From Social For Warfare

Agency aims to explore how the use of social media--particularly on mobile devices--can be used to help wage military campaigns.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) aims to develop new ways to use social media sites like YouTube and Facebook to help it better leverage the technology for military engagements.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for a "new science of social networks" through a program called Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC), according to a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) posted on the FedBizOpps.gov site.

The agency aims to use social media on "an emerging technology base," including but not limited to mobile devices, which DARPA said is a key driver for how social media can change the game for the military.

"The conditions under which our Armed Forces conduct operations are rapidly changing with the spread of blogs, social networking sites, and mediasharing technology (such as YouTube), and further accelerated by the proliferation of mobile technology," according to the BAA. "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."

DARPA believes that by using social media effectively, the DOD can better understand the environment in which it operates and use information more nimbly to support its missions, according to the announcement.

For example, the agency said in one instance, the military was trying to find a certain individual and rumors of that person's location were circulating in the social media world. Because of the rumors, people communicating on social media sites were calling for the military to attack the rumored location.

However, by monitoring those rumors and sending out "effective messaging" to dispel them before they were verified, an unnecessary and unwarranted attack was averted, according to DARPA.

"This was one of the first incidents where a crisis was (1) formed (2) observed and understood in a timely fashion and (3) diffused by timely action, entirely within the social media space," according to the BAA.

There are several specific goals for the SMISC program, according to the BAA. The first is to detect, classify, measure, and track how ideas are formed, developed, and spread via social media, as well as how purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation are used.

DARPA also aims to develop recognition of persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities, as well as to identify the participants and intent of these campaigns, as well as measure their effects.

Finally, the agency plans to detect influence operations of its adversaries and counter their messaging, according to the BAA.

The initial date for proposals for the program is Aug. 30, with final papers due to be submitted by Oct. 11. DARPA will hold an Industry Day about the program on Aug. 2.

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