Two defense experts explore the collision of war, politics, and social media, where the most important battles are now only a click away.
Through the weaponization of social media, the internet is changing war and politics, just as war and politics are changing the internet. Terrorists livestream their attacks, “Twitter wars” produce real‑world casualties, and viral misinformation alters not just the result of battles, but the very fate of nations. The result is that war, tech, and politics have blurred into a new kind of battlespace that plays out on our smartphones.
P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking tackle the mind‑bending questions that arise when war goes online and the online world goes to war. They explore how ISIS copies the Instagram tactics of Taylor Swift, a former World of Warcraft addict foils war crimes thousands of miles away, internet trolls shape elections, and China uses a smartphone app to police the thoughts of 1.4 billion citizens. What can be kept secret in a world of networks? Does social media expose the truth or bury it? And what role do ordinary people now play in international conflicts?
Delving into the web’s darkest corners, we meet the unexpected warriors of social media, such as the rapper turned jihadist PR czar and the Russian hipsters who wage unceasing infowars against the West. Finally, looking to the crucial years ahead, LikeWar outlines a radical new paradigm for understanding and defending against the unprecedented threats of our networked world.
“Essential reading for anyone interested in how social media has become an important new battlefield in a diverse set of domains and settings.”—O’Reilly Media
“…A compelling anecdotal narrative with short, evocative profiles and vignettes that bring texture and life to their story…It is distinguished by its readability and thorough research. I highly recommend it to policy makers and military officers seeking a better understanding of the information forces that are shaping contemporary and future battles.”—Naval War College Review
“A fascinating and engaging read…If you use social media, you should read this. If you don’t use social media, you should definitely read this. If you are one of
those seniors who dismisses social media, you should seriously, absolutely, read this.”—Official Reading of Royal Air Force (UK)
Over five years, the authors of LikeWar studied what social media has been doing to politics, news, and war around the world, drawing upon everything from historic cases to the latest in AI and machine intelligence. At the same time, they tracked dozens of conflicts and quasi conflicts in every corner of the globe, all playing out simultaneously online, scooping up everything from the spread of YouTube battle clips to a plague of Nazi-sympathizing cartoon frogs. They interviewed experts ranging from legendary internet pioneers to infamous “reality stars,” weaving their insights together with those of viral marketers and political hacks, terrorist propagandists and preteen reporters, soldiers and generals (including one who may have committed some light treason). They visited the offices and bases of the U.S. defense, diplomatic, and intelligence communities; traveled overseas to meet with foreign government operatives; and made trips to both the brightly colored offices of social media companies and the dark labs where the future of battle is being created. Meanwhile, they treated the internet itself as a laboratory, leaping into online battles just to experience the fight and see where it would lead. They joined distant nations’ digital armies and set traps for Russian and NeoNazi trolls, both to learn from them and have some fun at their expense. Then, before the book was even out, they found themselves being enlisted into the fight in new ways, asked to advise the investigations trying to figure out how other nations had attacked the United States with these new weapons, as well as aid the U.S. military information operations tasked to fight these wars.
Peter Warren Singer is Strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and Principal at Useful Fiction LLC. He has been named by the Smithsonian as one of the nation’s 100 leading innovators, by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues, by Foreign Policy to their Top 100 Global Thinkers List, and as an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Peter is the author of multiple best-selling, award winning books in both fiction and nonfiction, ranging from Wired for War to Ghost Fleet. No author, living or dead, has more books on the professional US military readings lists.
Emerson T. Brooking is a Washington, DC-based writer and an expert on the relationship between social media and conflict. Most recently, he was Research Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—the youngest researcher in a generation to receive such an appointment. He has served as an adviser on information warfare to the National Security Council, Joint Staff, and U.S. intelligence community.