The balance between estate military and electronic/cyber power has become a questionable and valuable fact on national security. Thanks to ethical hackers and cyber security experts who has taken this topic to the market, so that we are aware of the situation where cyber security is also a critical element in national security.
Since war has ended and the country is moving towards its development, many organizations and groups have taken steps to prevent the country from making its progress. As a country, we experience many external attacks sponsored and organized by Diaspora, politicians, NGO’s etc. Most of them are visible and we can practically take an action to defend them. But despite the visible threats, the latest weapon they took in hands is electronic media.
There are multiple forms of cyber threats where it can be a targeted attack or an organized influence attack. Most of us are aware of cyber attacks and the preventive actions taken by respective organizations. Unlike hacking incidents, Social media provides the facility to organize a larger and much more powerful attack using the power of users. Social media provides more sophisticated way to influence the general public to develop trends and direct the force towards society. This country has been vulnerable to many attacks and it is not advisable to take any more chances in the area of any form of threat.
According to wiki social media definition, Social media refers to “Interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”. Majority of people are under the impression that Social Media falls under the expert level of IT, and technical expertise is must to utilize social media for business. To some extend the statement is correct, where IT skills are required to have optimal and extreme performance of social media. But for small or medium level businesses, skills like motivation, language and marketing are more than enough to handle Social media.
Social media is new to most of the countries. Nowadays social media is also used for lobbying and to spy on prominent personalities and to generate threats which can be from small scale to very large organized crimes. Power of people is always stronger than any government or military force. Traditional way of collecting and developing groups has been outdated and the latest tool has become the social media to get people connected and united. Traditional groups are more transparent and leadership is visible but electronic groups organized through social media can be more risky where leadership and direction can be hidden or faked.Certain organizations and groups who are against the development of this country have taken some serious and harmful steps using internet to bring this country down, which are invisible to the common view.
Social media workshops
Few years ago an invitation was sent via one of the active IT communities of Sri Lanka to attend a workshop titled “Why Social Media for Marketing?” Few things made me interested; since it was organized by US Embassy in Sri Lanka and the title were ‘Social Media for marketing’ sounds valuable. Social media is an essential tool for marketing. Since both goes together I sent an application and was lucky enough to get an invitation to American Center located in Sri Lanka. Expecting to get additional knowledge on social media for marketing, I made it to the workshop on time. Since it was organized by US embassy and event was shared through local community, I did not pay any attention on speakers. When it commenced, the speaker Susannah Vila and one other guy initiated the workshop as friendly and active discussion forum rather than speech. First she collected typical information like who is active on twitter, who uses facebook pages/groups and who is more active etc. After that, it took me only few minutes to come to a conclusion that she or her buddy does not talk anything related to social media for marketing and they all talk about getting more users to social media and how to make them more active. She made it very clear that having a strong online community means a very valuable asset. Till the end, the entire discussion was regarding getting united under social media and to make it more active in Sri Lanka. Assuming not many people were curious like me, they all had a great time and left the American center. Later when I did some online search on her profile, it made me clear that my curiosity was correct and she has been working closely with developing or promoting Online Tools for Activists, By Activists, even work closely on Egyptian revolution. more details
Helping the revolution is her choice and the question here is why did US Embassy invited such person who actively worked for the propaganda of US government, to conduct social media workshop and titled it as ‘Social Media for Marketing’ and discussed developing social media network in Sri Lanka. After the deadly war, this country is trying hard to develop its infrastructure and still we are having major issues to develop the country than concentrating on social media. It is very clear that the intention of US embassy isn’t only about Social media or marketing.
Social Media Events
“TweetupSL” is 4 years old and it continues to grow with the objective of meeting twitter users offline, face to face. It used to be a social hangout but they have been adding more activities and offering awards to top twitter users in different categories. Each year the event is organized by group of social media experts and is funded by few commercial organizations. Assuming the commercial organizations do have marketing advantage over the sponsorship, it turns to be strange when US embassy made its presents as a sponsor for TweetupSL. I was lucky to make my presents to the event before the speech by the US embassy representatives. It was very clear from the US Embassy representatives short speech that they wants more twitter users, they need our community to express our views feelings news locations to be shared and get more people involved and to build the social media community bigger.
Fig 1 : Dreams and expectations vs organized propaganda
Social Media Lab
Social media also falls into the same tip of the iceberg theory where general public find it very simple but building up strategy and utilization needs talented professional skills and that’s where social media training hit the market. Many commercial vendors offer social media training and few organizations offer training and workshops free of charge. Except commercial organizations few organizations were here for good, doing almost the same type of training for years. One of the leading organizations is “Sarvodaya-Fusion” which is listed as nonprofit organization. Training is essential tool develop skills and it can be used for good or evil. It is very important to study and analyze what is the objective of the organization and who will influence the objectives. When I spoke to Fusion, they made it clear that social media is only an element of the training they offer and it is well connected with essential Microsoft office and basic applications and they are committed to develop proper IT workforce rather than having more social media junkie who will act according to hidden movements. It has become critical point to consider why such organizations are so interested in getting more people trained to develop social media skills.
US embassy has recently announced that it is conducting free social media courses through its own Social Media Lab . Why specifically US is interested in opening social media lab? , opening comprehensive IT training center or support any NGO or training organization would have been made it easy for united state to support our nation to develop tech skills without opening its own training lab. US government and many American organizations are already here providing training and aid for long time in history. In my opinion of view US Embassy is paying a big attention on specifically promoting social media in Sri Lanka.
Local media has already responded on same subject.What next from the US Embassy, toilet training?
According to the above author , the question is “Why did they took this initiative and is that critical and urgent support they could deliver to my country?”, Which is an obvious question anyone with right mind can ask. Having all the problems behind, is it really essential to open a Social Media lab rather than addressing the common issues we face as a developing country in this very important era.
Recent survey shows that the computer Literacy rate of Sri Lanka is around 35% currently and will reach 75% by 2016. More than social media, we need to build the basic computer literacy where many organizations are committed to help. But in this case we can clearly see the very strong connection between the US government and building social media connection in Sri Lanka.
Same like internet and computers, social media can be utilize for good or bad, with all the marketing and social advantages we should consider a risk that could develop. At the moment we do not have clear evidence or technical findings to document any bad movement, in case there is one its government responsibility to crackdown and mitigate the risk. By looking at the Patterns of things happening here we could build some valuable hypotheses and come to logical conclusion that some people working ageist the nation. Having more social media junkies means huge advantage for propaganda builders, Main objective is promoting social media is to collect BIG DATA, commercial organizations do such promotions for marketing where they can do better sales with market insights, other than commercial value it is questionable why some organizations are so interest on big data.
Although, currently I don’t think there are enough people interested in doing anti-government or anti-Sri Lanka related activities in this country, like USA or any other organizations use for their propaganda.
But I think they are planning it in a long run, in case if there is a situation like Syria or Libya ever rises in this country. Then these social media soldiers will be ready to do their propaganda work and by then there might be enough people.
Due to the community scale in Sri Lanka movements, such movements never reached its audience. Best example is “Occupy Colombo “and also few wannabe hackers were exposed by Rukshan and IPV10 “Rooting the Anonymous “.
However majority of the people who are prominent on social media and who are the “super users” on Twitter from this country are directly or indirectly have connections with organizing social media events or have connections with the US embassy.
Also there are prominent online people who are ‘TECH’ people in their description have anti Sri Lankan propaganda in their back. Setting up and maintain blog or online newspaper become an easy task where they can publish or share any propaganda and hide behind internet as keyboard heroes. Majority of social media users in the country are young people, and they can made to do anything like most of the social media marketers are doing right.
Time has reached its peak to alert the and take an preventive actions than awaiting to happen, there might be consequences in the future where there will be an army of social media workers waiting to do foreign propaganda work, against our own mother land. It is also our responsibility to stand against these threats and face it wisely.