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How social media users are helping NATO fight Gadhafi in Libya

How social media users are helping NATO fight Gadhafi in Libya

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jun 15, 2011
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02/03/2013

 
How social media users are helping NATO fight Gadhafi in Libya
By: GRAEME SMITH ,Published Tuesday, Jun. 14, 201
Every morning at 7:30 a.m., in the picturesque woodlands of rural Ontario, aretired auto shop manager named Janice Clinch helps her grandson get ready forschool and fires up her computer for another day of battle in the Libyan desert.The 59-year-old has never met anybody from Libya. She has not visited the Arabworld; chronic pain makes it hard for her to get around. But from her home near
Seeley‟s Bay, 40 kilometres northeast of Kingston, she joined a committed cadre
of social media users who have become, in effect, volunteer intelligence analysts.On Twitter, Facebook and other services, theydiscuss satellite images, vessel tracking data andthe latest gossip from their sources inside thecountry.In the past few days, NATO officials haveacknowledged that social media reports contributeto their targeting process
 – 
but only after checkingthem against other, more reliable, sources of information.A Twitter account with apparent links to the Britishmilitary has even taken the unusual step of askingusers to submit the precise co-ordinates of troopsloyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.Ms. Clinch was among the first to respond. Monthsof online activism earned her a role asadministrator of the Libyan Youth Movement pageon Facebook 
 – 
the only non-Libyan honoured withthe job, she says
 – 
and on Monday she noticed thata regular member, somebody located in western
 
Libya, had pinpointed a gas station converted into a temporary headquarters for
Col. Gadhafi‟s forces. She tweeted the co
-ordinates, along with the longitude andlatitude of a few other targets passed along from the same source, asking NATO to
“clean up” the government troops.
Ms. Clinch was not sure whether NATO had bombed those locations, but shecontinued to scour the Internet for more leads.
“I don‟t believe in dictatorships,” she said. “It‟s inconceivabl
e to me that people
could live in these conditions.”
Twitter is no replacement for the forward air controllers who have guided bombsfrom the ground since the Second World War. Canadian and U.S. forces now callthese specialists Joint Terminal Attack Controllers; some elite foreign troops arerumoured to be among the advisers helping the Libyan rebels, but they apparently
do not include JTACs. This leaves an important gap in NATO‟s view of the war:
for all its sophisticated eyes overhead, the alliance suffers a shortage of real-timeintelligence from below.This shortcoming is part of the reason why air power has never succeeded inoverthrowing a regime, analysts say, a historical record that fuels skepticism aboutthe campaign.Those precedents may not be entirely valid in the new age of social media,however. In a press briefing on June 10, Wing Commander Mike Bracken, aNATO spokesman, described the so-
called “fusion centre” that pulls together 
intelligence.
“We get information from open sources on the
 
Internet; we get Twitter,” WingCommander Bracken said. “You name any source of media and our fusion centrewill deliver all of that into usable intelligence.”
Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the Canadian who commands the operation,ultimately decid
es whether to trust what he‟s hearing.“He will decide, „That is good information and I can act on it,‟ ” the spokesmansaid. “Where it comes from, it‟s not relevant to the commander.”

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