In 2018, to prove how easily soldiers' real-world actions can be manipulated via social media, researchers at NATO's Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (StratCom) conducted a red-team exercise in which they "catfished" members of the armed forces. Using information collected from Facebook profiles and people search websites, the researchers created targeted advertising to draw soldiers to phony Facebook pages mimicking those service members use to connect with each other. In the resulting report, which was presented to the US Senate in February 2019, StratCom explained that the phony pages then promoted closed groups, where the researchers, using phony accounts, then asked questions about their battalions and their work. By the end of the research, which spread to Twitter and Instagram, the researchers had identified 150 soldiers, found the locations of several battalions, tracked troop movements, and forced service members to follow their orders through blackmail.
Writer: Issie Lapowsky
Publication date: 2019-02-18