The latest diplomatic playground for DoD: Social media

Tuesday - 9/21/2010, 4:00am EDT

The war of public opinion has invaded social media, and the Defense Department and other civilian agencies are coming out guns blazing.

Linton Wells, with the National Defense University, tells Government Computer News that Facebook and Twitter are critical for supporting population-centric strategies.

"If you can't communicate, collaborate, transmit, engage with the local population you're trying to influence, you cannot achieve the social, political and operational goals for which the military blood and treasure was committed."

Wells says using social media as a tool for local outreach will help the military reach its goals.

However, "social media is not just a one-way street," Wells said.

He cited the recent political unrest in Iran of an example of authoritarian regimes studying Facebook pages and YouTube videos to monitor anti-government protesters in and outside of the country.

But Wells says despite some of the risks, social media is a strategy that must be utilized.

"Even if we feel uncomfortable with it, even if we are concerned that there are security risks in using it, the other side is going to be using it. This is something the U.S. government is going to have to deal with, and so the question is how can you deal with it responsibly, recognizing that there are risks."