Social Networking Sites as a Tool of Psychological Operations: A Case Study

1 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2018

Date Written: August 30, 2018


This paper uses the Russian Federation as a case study, to demonstrate the deployment of social networking sites (SNS) in Psychological Operations (PsyOps). Through strategic dissemination of information, PsyOps intend to override objective reasoning of a target, in favor of a predetermined outcome. PsyOps take place both in peace and wartime and have been an essential part of military and political strategy throughout history. However, the invention of SNS have presented PsyOps with a modern medium, that amplifies their operational capacity. This paper applies a qualitative analysis approach, and uses secondary data from scholars, declassified and unclassified intelligence agencies reports, military doctrines, and open sources to demonstrate Russia’s use of SNS in PsyOps. The paper found that there is a notable use of SNS in contemporary PsyOps, an outcome of their relative convenience manifested in; target audience analysis through open sources, the interplay between first-mover advantage and target audience attention, velocity of content circulation, degree of anonymity, costs, volume and vector. Conclusively, developing capabilities for SNS based PsyOps must be an integral part of contemporary intelligence and military strategies, to serve as an imperative tool for national security, irregular warfare, and a force multiplier in conventional warfare.

Keywords: ​irregular warfare, large scale data analysis, psychometrics, attention economics, social networking sites, PSYOPS, military power diffusion, web bots, OSINT, computational propaganda

JEL Classification: Z29, Z39

Suggested Citation

Mabima, Joseph, Social Networking Sites as a Tool of Psychological Operations: A Case Study (August 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Joseph Mabima (Contact Author)

King's College, London ( email )

London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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