As with previous military actions in the age of Social Media, Turkey’s assault on US Allies in Syria isn’t relegated to physical combat alone. It’s simultaneously being boosted on Twitter.
A Short Time-Table
On October 9, 2019, just days after Donald Trump green-lighted the assault, Turkey began to attack US-allied Kurdish forces in NE Syria. Kurdish forces–our allies for years in the fight against ISIS–began to take casualties almost immediately. And that number has continued to grow.
Two days later, Turkey attacked US troops at a declared US military outpost. Though Turkey denies that the assault was deliberate, some officials believe that Turkey is trying to push the US out of Syria completely.
Turkey’s Social Media Boost – In Real Time
Even prior to the first explosions, real and fake accounts began pushing pro-Turkey messaging. While political propaganda is notoriously deceptive, it can be extremely informative.
For example, how does Turkey view the United States and our role in Syria? (Hint: it’s not pretty.)
Even Britain is condemned as part of some broad conspiracy to train terrorists. Note the “Deep State” similarity to far-right US conspiracy theorists.
Boost Strategy: Hashtag
You may have noticed that the Turkish tweets are using strikingly similar hashtags. One of the most consistent hashtags being used since the beginning of Turkey’s assault on US-allies in Syria is #TurkeyAgainstSDFnotKurds.
Public concern that Turkey intends a genocide of the Kurds started the moment Trump green-lighted Turkey’s assault. In what appears to be a defensive strategy, Turkish accounts began using the “TurkeyAgainstSDFnotKurds” hashtag to try to alter public perception. They are trying to persuade the world that they aren’t targeting all of the Kurds–just the ones they’ve deemed “bad,” such as SDF. (Though, regrettably, the hashtag is no reassurance to Americans since SDF has been our long-standing ally in the fight against ISIS.)
Unsurprisingly, some of the accounts engaged in hashtag spamming (a tactic often used by organized accounts to impact “trending” algorithms).
Boost Strategy: Visual Propaganda
You don’t have to be a digital marketing expert to know that humans tend to react more often and more strongly to visual imagery. This is obviously a fact pro-Turkey accounts understand.
Social Media: A Battlefield Filled with Civilians
Turkey’s social media boost is:
–Being disseminated by many fake accounts
Thus, there’s a strong possibility that much of the pro-Turkey messaging is state-backed propaganda. Propaganda that is being used in furtherance of Turkey’s assault on US allies.
Want to change the world’s perception of your military assault? Flood the world with pictures of your military officers helping cute kids.
Want to seem all-powerful to intimidate your target? Flood the world with pictures of fierce animals, harsh colors, and threatening words.
And social media platforms (Twitter, in this case), do little to combat such abuse of their platforms. As a matter of fact, the amount they do is so little that it’s a generally accepted fact that social media is a tool of modern warfare.
While social media may be considered a new tool of war, it’s important to note that civilians are on this new battlefield. Civilians are being manipulated and hearts and minds are being altered by foreign interests; and, regretfully, it works.
Written by Virginia Murr
Read More on Social Media Manipulation:
The International Scope of Twitter Bots
Twitter’s Russian Bot Hostesses