The Opportunities for a National Cyber Strategy and Social Media in the Rhizome Networks

The Opportunities for a National Cyber Strategy and Social Media in the Rhizome Networks

Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (Finnish National Defence University, Finland), Tommi Kangasmaa (Defence Command, Finland) and Arto Hirvelä (Defence Command, Finland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8304-2.ch004
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Securing society is a central task of the state. In the present day as well as in the future, knowledge and information are ever more closely tied to electronic data transfer. Finland's published Cyber Security Strategy depicts how the government safeguards electronic data transfer, that is, information security against different threat and risk scenarios. Cyber Security Strategy was introduced 2013 and has provided guidance to all governmental actors how to implement security activities to be able to respond to increased security threats in networks. Visuality has increasing importance in strategic communications, not least because it is faster than the written word and globally distributed via social media. Relatedly, camera drones are becoming increasingly important tools in the security economy, especially when it comes to enhancing military capability through combat cameras. The main challenge facing society is that the cyber domain in general, and social media in particular, is moving out of the control of the nation-state.
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Cyberspace has both a human and a technological element. It is a means of influencing and affecting society. It may be used to influence minds or to attack the physical world, for example by disrupting traffic control. But cyberspace cannot exist without people, who use the information applications and give the information meaning. Fake news is produced by human beings and not computers. Cyberspace provides a platform for so-called strategic communication, which is a concept that unites the efforts of governmental organizations to influence people in support of national interests (NATO 2015). After the Russian occupation of Crimea, a plethora of literature on Russian information operations emerged (NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, 2004; 2015a; 2015b; 2016a; 2016b; 2016c; Pynnöniemi & Rácz, 2016).

Public and formal organizations and institutions are often seen as being opposed or resistant to change. Social media and the cyber domain can pose numerous opportunities, but also unknown threats and risks. In this paper we argue that securing an organization is a dynamic and ever-changing process. We use the concept of the rhizome to convey the action of a proliferating weed formation which, in contrast to the arboreal and hierarchical tree structure, involves spontaneous, unpredictable and distant connections between heterogeneous elements. When we look at a visualization of the internet, it resembles a rhizome-like model more than a controlled system.

Strategic Communication is the focus of a heated discussion in the military field: How can militaries maintain credibility and uphold the high standards of democracy within the asymmetric, rhizomatic, and complex battlefield? To be credible, one must keep one’s word. The challenge is that the stage is global in the information age. The act, the actor, the scene, the purpose – all are exposed to a global audience through cyberspace within a very short period of time. The most effective way of showing the stage and the actors is by means of an audiovisual product, examples of which can be found in all conflict zones. Militaries are establishing YouTube channels and supplying material depicting intense fighting and frontline action. A solution for conveying one’s own arguments has been through combat camera capability, deployed by media-trained soldiers who are at the scene where the main effort takes place.

Within the spirit of strategic communication, the cyber strategy itself is one way to operationalize cyber security by announcing measures to be taken against cyber attacks. In this article we reflect on the Finnish Cyber Strategy and Strategic Communications from a phenomenological perspective.

This paper focuses on the Finnish way of understanding the cyber domain as a platform for a new kind of battlefield that can be seen as a facet of traditional warfare. First, we explain the short evolution or the roadmap of the Finnish cyber strategy and the need for a broader understanding of Strategic Communication. After that, we suggest a new concept relating to the theoretical background that adds to our understanding of the cyber domain as an entity, namely the concept of the rhizome as a countervail to systems thinking. The military component of the information warfare battleground is based on the international information superstructure, the changing organizational structure, the ever-developing technological infrastructure, and the new social media linguistic and audiovisual substructure. These problems are duly analogous with the rhizome concept. Antoine Bousquet (2009) has described the concept of ‘chaoplexity’ as being synonymous with the rhizomatic environment, posing the question: “How has war, an activity traditionally dominated by institutions extolling the virtues of hierarchical command and submission to orders, come to be understood essentially in terms of decentralized networks of combatants connected together by horizontal information links?” (ibid., 2).

Ten years later, there are no clear answers to Bousquet’s question. Military and security organizations have focused on the latest high-tech solutions, and looked to drones and social media, for example, in their search for answers. An important tool for addressing the chaotic rhizomatic battlespace is the Finnish approach to employing combat camera units.

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