World of War

Keyboard Warriors: UK Army To Set Up 'Social Media Unit'

Her Majesty's military is taking on infowar and psyops with the 77th Brigade.

Ian Waldie/Getty Images

LONDON—The British Army is recruiting a brigade of keyboard warriors ready to battle the might of both the Russian army and the insurgent forces who are killing in the name of the Islamic State.

Infuriated by the Kremlin’s “little green men” fomenting violence and disruption in Ukraine and aghast at the influence of ISIS on Twitter and Facebook, British generals have signed off on an army brigade which will focus on guerilla psychological warfare.

The Israelis have led the way in social media outreach, with the Israeli Defence Forces active on 30 platforms including blogs, YouTube, Instagram, and even Google+, in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish, French, and Russian. Twenty-first century asymmetric warfare begins online, and no one can afford to be left behind.

The Chief of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter, announced that the 2,000-strong brigade will commence operations in April. “The brigade consists of more than just traditional capabilities. It is an organization that sits at the heart of trying to operate smarter,” he said.

This being the British Army, the cutting-edge social media division has been modeled on a largely unsuccessful experiment used in the Burmese jungle in the 1940s. A special forces unit, called the Chindits, operated deep behind Japanese lines as a guerilla force tasked with covert campaigns of subversion and disruption. Led by the renegade Major General Orde Wingate, a swashbuckling pioneer of modern unconventional warfare, the unit became legendary even though its missions were of dubious success.

Assuming the Chindits official name “The 77th Brigade,” the new unit will wear the same emblem as their predecessors—a mythical Burmese lion traditionally seen as the protectors of Buddhist temples.

The new unit is part of a major restructuring of the British Army which will see the number of regular troops reduced to around 80,000 by 2020 as the focus on traditional “boots on the ground” military intervention is overturned.

“77th Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare. It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent,” a spokesman said.

The Pentagon, which has its own unit of Twitter commandos, discovered some of the pitfalls in entering a new theater of war this month when the social media accounts of the U.S. military’s Central Command were hacked by a group calling itself the Cyber Caliphate, which posted messages like: “I Love you ISIS,” and threatened to kill American soldiers whose personal details it claimed to have hacked.