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How Media and Social Networks Help Bundeswehr to “Aim For Headshot”

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How Media and Social Networks Help Bundeswehr to “Aim For Headshot”

Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Comrade Korolyov exclusively for SouthFront

In general Delius barracks, located in old German town of Mayen a few serious changes occured, that were left unnoticed by the public for the most part. Even though it costed 15 million euros. Extra work costed over 20 million, those were used to build offices and three living quarter areas. This was done so that the Center of Operational Communications of Bundeswehr was able to be placed here (ZOpKomBw).

It was created over a year ago for “active participation in mediaspace, audiovisual support of German troops overseas, making of media elements of propagandist nature.” Colonel Christian Bader is in charge of the center, in the past he commanded battalion 950 (OplnfoBtl 950) whose sole purpose was psychological warfare. At the same time Bader commands the OpKomBw. Most soldiers of the disbanded battalion continue their service in this new establishment of the German military.

In German military language, “operational communication” means all measures and methods of influencing the behaviour of opposing forces and civilian population under the conditions of a military operation. Nowadays this means psychological warfare. Earlier names for this, such as “psychological defense” and “operational information” are outdated and pretty much unused. The main reason for this is that the use of military force is on the level of peacekeeping and CT operations, not in an armed conflict between countries. More to that, the Bundeswehr declared that it will not “spread false information”, but will limit itself to influencing public opinion by spreading “selected information” so that not to lose the trust of the locals living in crysis areas.

The forces of operational communication represent Streitkraftebasis (part of the Bundeswerh’s logistics force). Center of operational communication is under the authority of Bundeswehr’s territorial forces (Kommando Territoriale Aufgaben der Bundeswehr). The main purpose of this units is to influence enemy troops through media and other informative sources, to influence hostile regions and the population in them, as well as civilian populations in other countries so that a military operation can go smoother. “We seek out quotes and conversations on relevant subjects performed by influencial groups, we familiarise ourselves with media positions, we look at how the people react to the events – colonel Bader tells us. – Media increases our reach”.

Their corps colour is lemony-yellow, their beret is coloured coral-red. They also have their own hat badge. In a stylised oak leaves there are two sideways bars through which an arrow breaks its way, it symbolises the way of information that breaks all barriers.

Thanks to modern communication technology, the exchange of information happens without any space or time restraints. The events in the hot spot, that are recorded using a cell phone and are posted on social media, can cause an immediate reaction in any region of the world. This is why making military decisions of any levels is based on the so-called information factor. This is the new specter of tasks for the Operational Communications forces of the Bundeswehr, that use specialised knowledge in how a human understands, spreads and is influenced by information.

The center, which is called “communicational multitool of Germany’s Armed Forces”, is used by the command to analyse and conduct special-purpose informational operations. It is capable to calculate through the situation, weigh up the capabilities and risks on all levels and provide the nevessary effect. Their professional expertise supports the military leadership of national and international military forces in the areas of Bundeswehr’s locations overseas. During the times of crysis or conflicts, the “coral berets” “create an accurate picture of what’s happening in the regions of Bundeswehr’s interest by continuous observation and analysis of opinions of the population in those regions as a whole and individuals that are taking part in the events”.

The command doesn’t limit their participation in combat by only advising the leadership. Based on their analysis they are able to mass influence the population as a whole or separate groups they choose to target through printed, audiovisual or other types of media.

To successfuly complete their mission, the center employs “academically capable and educated” specialists of various social sciences background – politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, culturology, journalism, advertising, PR and web-design. About a thousand of the the center’s employees are constantly occupied with analysing the data stream from the media and social networks from the regions where the Bundeswerh is or has the potential to operate. The received information is sent to the command for them to make a decision. Thus, the government’s decision to teach the soldiers of some African country can be made with big help from the center and information about some kind of paramilitary or mercenary force in the region or the country’s military itself. “The completed analysis – this is what was presented by the press in an official statement, – are detailed enough according to the military leadership’s demands”.

The center’s director is sure that “search abilities, regional expertese, system analysis – this is all our trademark”. Monitoring the results of psychological influence allows us to note any changes in attitude of local populace, correct their ideology according to our needs, correct our own form and content of future propagandist media attacks.

The center’s servicemen were so eager to take up their new job, that the military experts felt this was going to duplicate the functions of military intelligence of the land forces (Heeresaufklarungstruppe), and to be exact – its service branch called FNKr (Feldnachrichtenkrafte). This field intelligence service gathers information and specialises in working with the locals, questioning them, analysis trophey or intercepted documents, interrogating POWs, gathering intelligence by inserting agents in the area. The aim of FNKr. is also to “determine views, attitudes and ideas of combatants of opposing states or foreign civilians”. But, unlike the Operational Communications forces, in our opinion, the FNKr. do not conduct psychological warfare of any form. It would be unexpected to hear that the Center “doesn’t limit itself to supporting a current military operation. As we study the potential for crysis evolution, we analyse and determine the conditions on all territories that interest the Bundeswehr”.

The overall picture of mediaspace the workers of the center are trying to create is aided by the materials from open sources. “We seek out quotes from influencial authors on the subjects of interest, we determine the media outlook on the subject, we study how the people receive information about the event”. For this, we can use anything from Pakistani telegraphing, to Malian newspapers.

Modern sources of information, that are the social media, are very important to exactly determine what the civilian population thinks, the dynamics of their attitudes, etc. Bundeswehr plans to support all overseas operations with monitoring social media. For this, complex research had to be conducted where both civilian and military specialists were involved.

A few months ago a WeroQ project was mentioned for the first time (Extracting information from open sources). Then we learned about the military’s plans to organise a systematic monitoring of social media in the areas of Bundeswehr’s overseas deployment. According to the program of military technological research (F&T) the IT federal department of Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) began to work on the F&T WeroQ project. At first, it was only to ID IT technology that could be useful to gather the necessary information from open sources. The information received that way would be integrated into the informational control system (FulnfoSys). The work would be finished by December 2016 and would cost the German taxpayer 1.35 billion euros.

The Defense Ministry appointed the FhG FKIE (research institute specialising in communication, information and ergonomics) to work on the prospect of uniting WeroQ with IBM Content Analytics, that is used to analyse a massive ammount of text information and which allows to mark certain entities and connections between things, classify and as a result, determine exactly the effectiveness of its own informational and psychological actions.

It was determined, that there was a need for IT technology of deep text analysis. The interest of German specialists was on the American-recommended project OSINT (Opern-Source Intellifence). On one of propaganda seminars, that was dedicated to OSINT methods, it was said that modern IT technologies will allow the police, intelligence services and the military to increase the accuracy of analysis.

According to the project CD&E (Creation of concepts and experimentation) measures are being taken to optimise the analysis of media space based on open, available sources from the Internet: social networks, forums, videoportals, electronic archives, etc. In NATO document Concept for a SocialC2IS – Bridging the Heterogeneity of People and IT the researcher Michael Wunder is mentioned, who works on “a whole assembly of platforms that are able to structurise the incoming data received via open sources – Facebook, Google Maps, Google Earth, Wikis, Twitter”. The monitoring of social media means searching in the Internet any mentioned parameters and terminology needed by the searcher. Among other tools, Talkwalker is used, which is capable to find every mentioning in the net of the needed word. It is also able to be filtered by date and emotional colouration of the phrases and sentenses, this new modified Talkwalker is able to find the necessary information online and determine how fast the content is spreading. With its help we can determine the way information spreads in various countries and in any languages, and the affiliated Virality Map will allow to determine hidden PR-levers and things that allowed the information to become popular.

The service of the Center isn’t limited only to the mentioned projects. Lately, many other capabilities are being discovered and utilised, mainly to analyse the necessary data in the social media and using other tools in the related fields. We are talking about the tools used in civilian market research that are well-known by the economists and businessmen, such as Textrapic and Brandwatch. The first one was created by the GRAWIS institute in Rostok and is used in scientific research to visualise massive amounts of text. With its help, Stefan Pforte, the developer, thinks “we can determine the meaning of the text”. Brandwatch is providing the analysed data from the social networks. The Center of Operational Communication generates information that is worked on by this program in various ways. Alongside the pride of the Center – their own program robot Crawler, that is used to search new open and available sources and puts them into the search engines’ memory. Here, the robot is called “spider”, also partnership relations with the GNIP and APIs are used.

It is interesting, that the Center of Communicational information of the Bundeswehr and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) with its Echtzeitanalyse von Streaming-Daten

program (Point-by-point analysis of the data in real-time) declared absence of interest towards information about individual citizens. This was declared to calm down the German population that was upset by the state’s intervention in their private lives. Detlef Borchers, Heise online journalist, says that “the BND is willing to spend 300 million euros to monitor social networks” and how the opposition in the government doesn’t want this to happen.

The German government initially stated the capability of information gathering in the social networks is not even being considered. It was only recently, that Bundestag’s deputy A. Hunko informed us about the software’s readiness of the respective Bundeswehr’s branches and about the military’s readiness to invade social networks. The opposional deputy also stated that it is unacceptable that the BND will have access to these technologies.

It is written in newspaper Die Zeit that Berlin and Mayen is concerned with “American attempts to involve NATO in old methods of opposing propagandist Russian advance”. Even the proamerican-minded Ursula von der Leyen, the German minister of Defense, was shocked by the public statement issued by the Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe and leader of U.S. European Command general Phillip Breedlove that Russian military wants to start an assault against Kiev. This is why, according to the newspaper, the Americans, that were demanding a bigger propagandist activity from the Bundeswehr, got shut down. Mayen shares the views of Berlin leadership: “Half truths or lies would be a deadly blow to the public’s trust in us. This is a dead end. We won’t take part in this”.

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