Army, Silicon Valley to tackle social media challenge

As part of DOD's effort to collaborate with industry and academia, two projects will work on how to counter adversaries’ malicious use of social media.

The Defense Department’s latest foray in its developing partnership with the Silicon Valley on innovative projects is looking to ways to contend with how adversaries use of social media against U.S. interests.

The Army Cyber Command and Second Army have launched two projects as part of the initiative. In one, called the Silicon Valley Innovation Pilot, 10 cyber professionals gleaned from Cyber Command headquarters, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, the Army Cyber Institute and the Army Cyber Protection Brigade will be paired with 10 Silicon Valley partners to work on the problem. In the other project, Army personnel will work with Stanford University as part of th4e Hacking4Defense program, the Army said in a release.

The initiatives mark the latest efforts in DOD’s outreach program announced last year by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in which Carter said he wanted to boost collaboration with industry and academia in order to spur innovation. DOD has established the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a permanent outreach office in the Silicon Valley, and has launched several projects aimed at developing new technologies.

The first, announced last August, involved forming the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics under the leadership of the FlexTech Alliance, a consortium of 162 companies, universities, and non-profits. Another involves working with industry on ways to automate cyber procedures such as software patching, system diagnostics and data logging.

The social media initiatives are related to earlier efforts such as the Army Cyber Innovation Challenge, which looked to use a flexible acquisition model to more quickly get prototypes of cyber tools into the hand of the Army for evaluation.

Social media has increasingly become a battleground of ideas and propaganda. Russia has reportedly used “troll farms” to attack any anti-Russia rhetoric, for example, and Iran has encouraged its country’s users to take up campaigns such as “Down with the U.S.” Even non-state groups such as ISIS actively use social media to spread their message and try to recruit new members.

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