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LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media (Paperback)


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Two defense experts explore the collision of war, politics, and social media, where the most important battles are now only a click away.

Through the weaponization of social media, the internet is changing war and politics, just as war and politics are changing the internet. Terrorists livestream their attacks, “Twitter wars” produce real‑world casualties, and viral misinformation alters not just the result of battles, but the very fate of nations. The result is that war, tech, and politics have blurred into a new kind of battlespace that plays out on our smartphones.

P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking tackle the mind‑bending questions that arise when war goes online and the online world goes to war. They explore how ISIS copies the Instagram tactics of Taylor Swift, a former World of Warcraft addict foils war crimes thousands of miles away, internet trolls shape elections, and China uses a smartphone app to police the thoughts of 1.4 billion citizens. What can be kept secret in a world of networks? Does social media expose the truth or bury it? And what role do ordinary people now play in international conflicts?

Delving into the web’s darkest corners, we meet the unexpected warriors of social media, such as the rapper turned jihadist PR czar and the Russian hipsters who wage unceasing infowars against the West. Finally, looking to the crucial years ahead, LikeWar outlines a radical new paradigm for understanding and defending against the unprecedented threats of our networked world. 

About the Author

P. W. SINGER is an expert on twenty-first-century warfare. His award-winning nonfiction books include the New York Times bestseller Wired for War.

EMERSON T. BROOKING is a Resident Fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council. His work has been published in Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic, and Rolling Stone.

Praise For…

An Amazon Best Book of the Month
An Amazon Best Book of the Year (2018)

Named by Foreign Affairs as one of the “Best Books of 2018”
Featured on NPR, CBSN, MSNBC, PBS, and ABC News Radio, as well as in the New York Times, the Washington Post,Time,Popular Science,Rolling Stone,Forbes, the Atlantic,Wired,Slate,Politico,Gizmodo,Foreign Affairs,Defense One, Vox, the Daily Beast, Adweek, and more

LikeWar should be required reading for everyone living in a democracy and all who aspire to.—BookList (starred review)

“LikeWar is an engaging and startling work.” —Vice-Motherboard

“Excellent… It is a deeply researched page-turner.”—Foreign Policy
“a fantastic read”—The LoopCast

“Fascinating book”—CBS News

“Fascinating”—Project Ploughshares

“Favorite book of 2018”—Munich Security Conference

“an excellent book”—American Bar Association

“Essential reading for anyone interested in how social media has become an important new battlefield in a diverse set of domains and settings.”—O’Reilly Media 

“A compelling read… LikeWar…is not a warning about tomorrow’s war — it’s a map for those who don’t understand how the battlefield has already changed”—Washington Post

“LikeWar: The Weaponisation of Social Media” is a book that anyone active in social media should read. That is everyone.”—Irish Tech News

“The stories Singer and Brooking tell and the lessons they teach are fundamental for military leaders at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war…..a blueprint on how to think, operate and survive in this operational environment.”—Army Magazine

“Consider Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media your must-read book of 2019. Informative, insightful, yet also cautionary.”—Chicago Now

“The most important book of 2018 should be required reading for informed citizens”—Named “Best Security, Business, and Technology Book of 2018” by OODA-Loop

“Invigorating…The biggest revelation in Singer and Brooking’s work is that the fog of real data, fake news, manipulated bot wars, expensive hashtag battles, planted blogs and real, visceral human outrage are not describing a world that is coming. They are explaining and detailing the realities of the world we already live in.”— The News (Pakistan)

 “…a thorough and well-written book on how social media is being employed in war and politics. It is an absolutely essential read to understand the nature of today’s reality.”—EER

“…Fantastic. LikeWar includes interviews with everyone from Michael Flynn to Spencer Pratt. It doesn’t get better than that for a national security/reality tv-watching nerd like me.”—Just Security

“….Being ignorant of, and worse yet denying, these real threats to our cohesion as a country and to the global community of citizens, is no longer a choice and every individual, every organization, every country has to decide what role they will play in this battlefield and bears responsibility for the ultimate outcome. Reading LikeWar may be, for many, the right first step.”—CipherBrief

“Backed by over 100 pages of notes, LikeWar is sober, deeply researched, and still compulsively readable. Comparisons to On War and The Art of War are apt…”—Amazon Best Book of the Month selection

“Seriously. If you use social media in any capacity, you should read this.”—The Verge

“LikeWar is a magical combination of history, technology, and early warning wrapped in a compelling narrative of how today’s information space can threaten the truth, our polity, and our security.  It’s a page turner, too, chock full of deep insights and fascinating detail.  Sun Tzu tells us to know ourselves, our enemy and our battle space and LikeWar delivers on all three.”—General Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and NSA, author of The Assault on Intelligence

“Online technology has outrun our social intuitions about its power. In vivid prose, Singer and Brooking offer insight into the ways that social media can be used to manipulate beliefs and attitudes for self-serving purposes.” —Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the internet, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

“Much as Clausewitz did for conventional war, LikeWar lays out the new 21st century principles of war. Mixing fascinating stories and the front edge of research, it explains the twilight battlegrounds of politics and war on social media—a frightening future where truth is the first casualty, and our fundamental values are deeply at danger.  I loved it.”—Admiral James Stavridis, US Navy (Ret.), former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO

“Reading LikeWar will help you to avoid being part of this Internet of Idiots…While students of history, strategic studies, political science, and international relations will all find LikeWar on their required reading list, anyone else who wishes to understand the world we live in must add LikeWar to the top of the pile on their nightstand.”—Forbes

“The picture Singer and Booking paint of how social media is being weaponized is compelling, and one that ought to give pause to any practitioner in the field of national security. I am reluctant to be so effusive in my praise, but this is truly a must-read book.”—Lawfare

“This timely work provides a fascinating and often frightening portrait of the many ways social media is being weaponized and used to manipulate. Singer (Wired for War) and Brooking, a former research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, present a historical overview of the Internet and trace how social media has been implemented to terrorize and control and to reshape war. They provide specific examples of groups and countries taking advantage of online platforms, from radicalization by ISIS to disinformation campaigns and information throttling conducted by Russia, China, and North Korea, including extensive coverage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The authors also clearly explain how these campaigns succeed, with in-depth descriptions of the echo chambers and confirmation bias that dominate media and reinforce the goals of this war: dismiss, distort, distract, dismay, and ultimately divide. The last chapter expands upon the culpability and role of those controlling the platforms. This book is extremely well documented. Librarians will be especially heartened by the authors’ assertion that “information literacy is no longer merely an education issue but a national security imperative.” VERDICT An important first purchase for all collections.”—Library Journal

“It’s extremely timely and fascinating — reading it in bed with my husband, I kept pulling him away from his book to show him passages.” —Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“brilliant, gripping, and worrisome”—Protego

“…a gritty, multifaceted, and insightful look into a world of online conflict that many of us are only peripherally aware of.”—The Business Standard

“It’s clear that the information in LikeWar is vital to our national security; however, that’s not the real reason why I enjoyed the book so much. I liked the book just because it was highly readable and entertaining…. It’s a fun read, sure, but best of all is that every time I put down LikeWar, I felt that I had learned something new and important….This book and the information it contains is that vital. I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in national security, international relations, journalism, or history.”—NewsRep

“LikeWar is the definitive work on the information revolution—its early origins, growth, and many complex implications.  It weaves this broad-tapestry in a way that explains, compels, and provokes thought all at once.  A fascinating, informative must-read.”—Lt. Gen. James Clapper, USAF (ret.) Former Director of National Intelligence

“…Essential reading if today’s Leaders (both in and out of uniform) are to understand, defend against, and ultimately wield the non-kinetic, yet violently manipulative effects of Social Media.”—US Army Training and Doctrine Command
“A great read…A must read for the intelligence community…A compelling story of the opportunities and risks of social media that every intelligence analyst must appreciate, as publicly available information will increasingly dominate how we read or misread the operational and strategic environment.”—Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, US Army; Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

“A timely, urgent look at a world of electronic sheep—and wolves aplenty, too.”—Kirkus

“LikeWar is an eye-opening literary experience. Most of us access social media in some form on a near-daily basis, but do we really understand the phenomenon?”—Modern War Institute at West Point

“Although the book is titled Like War, it isn’t so much about warfare as about how social media is affecting society broadly: how we consume information, why social media is so addictive, how it has been capitalized on by social movements, celebrities, politicians, terrorists, and states. It’s worth reading for the history of the Internet alone, which bounces along as vignettes about individuals that personalize the story (they clearly apply the elements of effective social media they identify: narrative, emotion, authenticity, community, and inundation)…A valuable primer on where social media came from and how its currently being used. It also has some useful suggestions for taming its effects.”—War on the Rocks

“My films have specialized in realistic horror. LikeWar is scary as hell, as it shows how people can be manipulated online to make our worst fears come true.”—Jason Blum, producer of The Purge and Get Out

“This book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every corporate strategist and government leader.”—OODA-Loop

“…an important read for those in the national security field and anyone who has a smartphone and spends any amount of time during the day checking their social media accounts.”—From the Green 

“Through a series of vivid vignettes, LikeWar shows how the internet has become a new battlefield in the 21st century, in ways that blur the line between war and peace and make each of us a potential target of postmodern conflict.”—Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University

“…few grasp the real threat Americans face on their favorite social networks in the course of their daily experiences. Through amusing vignettes and plenty of pop-culture references, the authors take us on a wild ride featuring everything from reality TV stars to Russian missiles.  My take?  Like and share.”—Task and Purpose

“The internet has fundamentally reshaped the way humans interact; by extension, it has reshaped the way humans wage war. This book is timely, but the takeaways are timeless.”—Ian Bremmer, Founder of the Eurasia Group, and New York Times best-selling author of Us. vs. Them

“In LikeWar, Peter Singer and Emerson Brooking incisively document how the use of social media and information operations are fundamentally changing the dynamics of global conflict and competition, while threatening the foundations of democracy. While the 2016 elections showed the power of social media and its manipulation by our adversaries,  Singer and Brooking provide a wakeup call to the wider challenges facing us, requiring that all Americans adapt and respond.”—Senator Mark Warner (VA), Ranking Member-Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

“LikeWar is the best, most comprehensive book to appear on a phenomenon that has turned into the greatest threat to electoral democracy since the 18th Century.”—Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia, co-chair, World Economic Forum Global Futures Council

“Singer and Brooking have produced a compulsively readable and insightful account of what social media is doing to our democracy and to our relations with each other. If it were fiction, their description of the battleground the Internet has become would be scary. As reality, it is terrifying.”—Professor Sir David Omand, former UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator and Director of Government Communications Headquarters

Product Details
ISBN: 9780358108474
ISBN-10: 0358108470
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: October 8th, 2019
Pages: 432
Language: English