Millennium Post

Defence personnel & Social media

Army Chief Bipin Rawat on Tuesday said that soldiers cannot be prevented from using the smartphone and social media. "Social media is here to stay, soldiers will use social media. Our adversary will use social media for psychological warfare and deception, we must leverage it to our advantage," the Army Chief was quoted as saying by ANI. He said that he was advised to keep soldiers away from smartphones but that was not possible. He, however, recommended exercising discipline while using social media. A Defence Ministry guideline for the soldiers say that they should not watch porn on Facebook/social networking sites; use photo in uniform as profile pic on WhatsApp/Facebook; click advertisements on social sites alluring for prizes/awards; expose official identity on such sites; upload pictures with weapon on such sites even in civil uniform; reveal their rank, unit name and location or anything related to your work; accept friend request from unknowns; allow family members to post/mention their profession on sites; post any picture with anything related to military as background and store/ save any information related to military in computer/laptops. There were reports that the government wants to keep soldiers away from social media after a series of videos emerged on different social media platforms in which the soldiers had criticised the army and their seniors. The matter came in sharp focus after a Lieutenant Colonel posted in Jabalpur was honey-trapped by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI through social media. In modern times, information is an important area of warfare and artificial intelligence is being employed as a warfare tool. "If we have to leverage AI to our advantage we must engage through social media as a lot of what we wish to gain as part of AI will come via social media," said the army chief, according to ANI.

Arguably, smartphones and social media are today a man's best friend. They have revolutionised the concept of communication by providing user-friendly features and making instant communication in all its forms a reality. Not merely exchange of voice and text, even video sharing and live streaming are no more a special privilege of experts; just anybody can do it on his smartphone. Smartphones are as much a medium of entertainment where TV programmes and films can be watched beside engaging in serious online activities such as banking, shopping, trading on the stock market, etc. For a large number of defence forces who are deployed in far-flung border areas for a long duration, smartphones are one of the most treasured belongings that they have with them. Through the phone, they remain connected with their family, exchanging pictures and pleasantries as they go about their lives. Asking the defence forces to stop using the smartphone would be a great injustice. But with so many features and exposure to all sorts of online activities around the world, the smartphone can be harmful too, especially for the defence personnel who have access to classified information. The instances of army men sharing videos of poor quality food given to them or ranting against their seniors on social media are some of the basic drawbacks of the policy that allows the forces to use the smartphone. But if the forces do not exercise discretion and discipline, their use of social media can land them in serious trouble. As the recent case suggests, key defence functionaries can be enticed and trapped by the spy network of enemy countries. Now, the social media is used by most institutions including those related to defence and intelligence. They source vital and strategic information from unsuspecting social media users and it is possible that an army man posted at a strategic location inadvertently reveals some information which may harm the interests of the country. In order to ensure that this does not happen, the forces need to be told in clear terms all the precautions that they need to take while using social media. As rightly pointed out by the Army Chief that the modern day warfare involves information war where information is not only crucial but also a target of attack. So, the defence personnel should know the value of information that they have access to and should be sensitised about how the enemy forces can spy on them and other strategic assets through social media. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the defence sector is increasing. This involves analysis of big data and fishing out vital information that can help the enemy in selecting an unorthodox target. Instead of expecting the soldiers not to use the smartphone or social media, they can be given training on how they can use them to the advantage of the forces.

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