Hybrid Warfare: The Role of Social Media


By : Muhammad Hammad Ahmed

Today, hybrid warfare is considered to be the most important strategic discourse in the global world. Although the concept of hybrid warfare is as old as the war, due to the emergence of new technologies, it has been converged with and accompanied by cyber warfare. It has existed in history, but with the involvement of non-state actors and information technologies, its nature and dynamics have been changed. Hybrid warfare has a cascading effect on a target country, as it impacts all domains of a state.

Pakistan has also been the target of this advanced hybrid warfare due to its strategic location, where anti-state and non-state actors are targeting the domain of social, economic, political, military, diplomatic, and informational, with an aim to create instability and undermine the peace in the country. This is been implemented against Pakistan through the tools of hybrid warfare as using the model of Diplomacy, Informational, Military and Economic (DIME model) through information warfare, propaganda, disinformation, media warfare, and conspiracies to affect it from all sides.

In recent history, Pakistan has faced a number of cyberattacks under the spectrum of hybrid warfare on its critical infrastructures which are aimed to disturb the economic setup and create mistrust between the masses and the government. Moreover, according to the US department of treasury’s FinCEN and EU Disinfo labs, India has been involved in spreading disinformation against Pakistan at the international forum through the social media platform.

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In the current global scenario, social media is now being used as a vital tool to spread disinformation, as it has the potential to create an impact on the masses due to its outreach in society. These social media platforms are increasingly used as a prominent tool of hybrid warfare. The rapid propagation of information on social media, spread by word of mouth, can impact the perception of the masses quickly with information that may or may not be true. When disinformation is propagated in this manner on purpose, the spread of such information on social media for political or other means can benefit the campaigns of non-state actors. On the other hand, the word-of-mouth propagation of negative information concerning a political figure can be damaging. The use of the social media platform Twitter is highly used by political parties to build narratives, as the majority of people rely upon social media for information.

The threats of misinformation and propaganda campaigns have been affecting the masses and national security of Pakistan since the invention of these different digital platforms especially due to the easy penetration of people over these platforms. Society is using social media platforms where misinformation is being shared to affect the thinking of the masses. Disinformation is a great tool of every warfare and the spreading of disinformation has been a tradition now. A click of a button can spread disinformation which is done under planned attacks to create doubts in minds of the masses about institutions and their heads.

Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership need to tackle the hybrid warfare strategy by safeguarding national interests. For this, an effective counter-national security strategy is required through proper policy formulation and a strong unity is also mandatory to cater to propaganda and disinformation campaigns.

The writer is an expert on governance and public policy, who currently works as an analyst for the Government of Pakistan.

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