A Framework for the Weapons of Influence

A Framework for the Weapons of Influence

Miika Sartonen (Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland), Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland), Petteri Simola (Finnish Defence Research Agency, Human Performance Division, Tuusula, Finland), Kari T. Takamaa (Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland) and Veli-Pekka Kivimäki (Finnish Defence Research Agency, Riihimäki, Finland)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2020010103

Abstract

The development of communications technology has enabled the internet to become a new theatre of military operations. The influence aspects of military operations in information battlespace, however, are difficult both in theory and in practice, especially concerning international law. As a result, there is a variety of national and organizational solutions of how to divide tasks and responsibilities between authorities. This asymmetry generated by different approaches and rules of conduct provides opportunities for actors with more relaxed interpretation of international law, allowing them to use weapons of influence in order to pursue military goals. In this article the authors ask whether military influence operations, just like cyber operations, could be treated as acts of war. To help militaries address the complex issue of influence operations, a framework consisting of three categories is suggested.
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Background

A certain utopian hype, promising to deliver more than it actually does, always accompanies the appearance of new technology. At the same time there are fears that new technologies, such as military robots, will destroy us. The communication technologies that dominate today’s information battlespace are relative newcomers. Print media started in the West in around the 17th century, and the audio-visual media was largely developed during the 20th century. However, cell phones, laptops and GPS as digital phenomena are only 20-30 years old, and thus it is still quite early to estimate the long-term influence they will have on the deep culture of societies. The most important change caused by these technologies, however, is that we carry “the online” constantly in our pockets or on our wrists (Van Den Eede et al., 2017, p. xvii).

One major advantage provided by the Internet is the global reach in communications, which is an asset for anyone willing to influence large audiences. If we take a look at history, the ability to influence target audiences has always been largely defined by technology. The introduction of the aircraft allowed for propaganda leaflets to be distributed amidst the enemy combatants, and the introduction of radio and TV (or rather the mass number of receivers) allowed for propaganda to be transmitted more effectively across national borders or frontlines. The reach of these propaganda means was, however, mostly local. Equally, mitigating these means of influence was still manageable in a sense, since it was possible to physically shoot down the aircraft carrying leaflets or to compete in terms of transmitting power, using electronic warfare to limit the reach of hostile propaganda (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2012).

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