Social Policy & Administration

Social Media and Counter-Terror Operations

Social Media and Counter-Terror Operations

It is needed that information leaks through social media be taken as the new normal by military planners and adequate measures are taken to mitigate the adverse fallouts, by factoring in such messaging.


Shashank Ranjan, Professor of Practice, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.


A counter-terror operation lasting for more than 24 hours in Rajouri’s Kalakote in Jammu and Kashmir on 22–23 November saw five soldiers including two young Indian army officers and Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) highly-trained ‘commander’ and his associate killed. Although the intent here is not to carry out a military analysis of the incident, it would be pertinent to mention that officers’ casualty once again reinforces the fact that the Indian army leaders continue to lead the troops by example. The military lessons from this operation will certainly be drawn by the Army to modify its tactics and planning, as applicable. The opinion endeavours to flag the sensitive issue of usage of social media (SM) platforms, especially WhatsApp, during the course of such counter-terror operations.

Adverse Fallouts

Social media, as we all know, is very thoroughly abused by the terror outfits towards spread of dis-information as well as for recruitment purposes, among other objectives. The usage of social media platforms by the common people during the course of counter-terror operations, though, does not always portend well. In crisis situations such as natural disasters, messages on social media by the affected sections of people as also by relief providers do prove to be a force multiplier.

In most cases, SM platforms have been the only way of responding to natural disasters for disseminating real-time information, warnings, coordinating aid and relief and asking for funds, etc. However, given past experience, irresponsible spread of half-baked information on SM platforms could be counter-productive in several ways, especially when a counter-terror operation is in progress.

Vis-à-vis the recent Kalakote incident, a case in point were messages floating around on WhatsApp that gave finer and specific details concerning the ongoing gun fight between the troops and terrorists. These details, without any veracity, included name of the units involved in operations, location of operations, casualty to own troops to include their identity, etc. Shockingly, these details were in real- time, unofficial and against the norms of stealth and secrecy concerning tactical military operations. The origin of this particular message, amongst others, remained hazy and preceded any kinds of statement from an official source.

Published in: Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA)

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