Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media with P.W. Singer

Social media has transformed our lives. It has also transformed how wars are fought. P.W. Singer’s new book “Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media” describes the far-reaching impact of social media on the tactics and strategies used by military, business, and everyday citizens.

We have all read about stories such as Russian bots and Cambridge Analytica, but Likewar covers many more cases that are surprising and mildly frightening. From the Gaza Strip to the streets of Chicago to Taylor Swift’s Instagram feed, Likewar describes just how pervasive the effect of social media has been on warfare.

Likewar also provides historical context. For software engineers, the repurposing of social media as a weapon is disconcerting. Many of us are working on products with a social networking component. Does this make us complicit in building weapons?

We can find some reassurance in the fact that this has happened before: from the newspaper to the television, every new invention has been used repurposed for war.

In a war, a new piece of technology always presents a new vector to gain an advantage in a conflict. Because the stakes are so high in a war, there is a large incentive to find creative ways to use technology to undermine your adversaries and to help your allies.

P.W. Singer has written about robotics, cybersecurity, and modern warfare for a decade. In a previous episode, we discussed subjects like Stuxnet, drones, and social media manipulation. In today’s show, P.W. returns to talk about his book Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media.


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