ABSTRACT

Introduction Cyber warfare, what it is and what it entails, has been widely debated in recent years including the political, ethical and not least legal aspects of it. Most of this debate has though been centered around cyber attack on, protection of so-called “critical infrastructure,” and state-sponsored cyber espionage. Social network media has also been mentioned a lot in connection with recent conflicts. Most recently, as we will discuss later, in connection with The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s use of social network media to create effects regionally and internationally. But also in connection with the civil war in Syria where social network media has been used extensively throughout by all actors to create effects in the international system and within the conflict area in a very strategic way. A tendency that also has been clearly visible in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and in connection with Russian Information Warfare. The majority of the debate concerning social network media have, however, been focused on the use of these for propaganda purposes. The two debates, however, have not for real been merged and social network media have therefore not been seen as a distinct subset to cyber warfare in the debate. To this end, it is this chapter’s main argument that cyber warfare is too narrowly interpreted in the current debate and that social network media has to be viewed as specific subset of “cyber warfare,” which only occurs in and through social network media. Furthermore, that social network media as a specific subset of cyber warfare has been subject to an intensified strategic use within recent years. That has resulted in a coordinated use of social network media for intelligence collection, targeting, propaganda, offensive and defensive “cyber operations” and for command and control purposes. To provide a context for this argument the chapter will first discuss some characteristics of the contemporary conflict environment, which is facilitating the effectiveness of social network media as a “war-fighting platform” to include what is meant with the term “global information environment.” Furthermore the chapter will discuss how social network media fit into cyber warfare through the “military” activities which they can be used for. Finally will the chapter present two short case studies on how social network media has been strategically

employed in the Syrian civil war and by the terror organization “Islamic State” in order to draw some general deductions on how social network media are used for warfare purposes within the cyber-warfare context.