Social media is not just a rancorous gabfest but a literal “battlefield... with real-world consequences,” according to this overwrought jeremiad. Singer (coauthor of Ghost Fleet), a contributing editor for Popular Science, and Brooking, a former research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, rehash alarming internet phenomena, including the Islamic State’s use of social media to recruit followers and post beheading videos, the Russian government’s exploitation of social media to manipulate American politics, and the white nationalist movement’s dissemination of pernicious ideas. The authors’ survey is wide-ranging, but doesn’t really support their argument that “online information itself a kind of weapon” posing dire threats to democracy. Their scattershot brief bundles serious issues, like the Chinese government’s arrests of online dissidents, with trivialities like the “memetic warfare” of Pepe the Frog cartoons; mostly their evidence just illustrates the banal truth that, like every communications technology, social media is used to spread propaganda. Worse, the authors’ militarized rhetoric underpins their calls for “legal action to limit the effects of poisonous super-spreaders” and for companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to “police” the “dangerous speech” on their platforms and act as “the arbiters of truth.” Readers who value free speech may be dismayed at the authors’ conflation of words with warfare. Agent: Dan Mandel, Greenburger Assoc. (Oct.)
An Amazon Best Book of the Month An Amazon Best Book of the Year (2018)Featured on NPR, CBSn, MSNBC, PBS, and ABC News Radio, as well as in The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Atlantic, Wired, Slate, Politico, Gizmodo, Foreign Affairs, Defense One, Vox, The Daily Beast, Adweek, and more “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“Seriously. If you use social media in any capacity, you should read this.”—The Verge “Extremely timely and fascinating.”—The New York Times, New & Noteworthy “Terrific and alarming . . . Wow.”—SE Cupp, CNN“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 “Whether it's his fiction and nonfiction, his work as a TRADOC 'mad scientist,' the interviews he's done with defense media, the pages of Popular Science, or some other venue, P.W. Singer is the Army's must-read thinker.”—Army Magazine "...an in-depth account...Through a series of engaging profiles the authors, P. W. Singer and E. T. Brooking, explore the new reality and consequences facing each of us as we attempt to interact with the larger world via social media. Well organized with a vernacular easy to follow, Like War seeks to show us the hazards we are already encountering on a daily basis...this is an excellent book for anyone regularly utilizing social media, in particular the modern warfighters seeking a better understanding of information warfare and the terrain in which it is fought."—Journal of the Joint Air Power Competence Center“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 (Oct)“'Russia is not the full story," Singer tells Codebook. 'Russia is just a chapter in a larger book.' Singer, a researcher at the New America think tank, means that both figuratively and literally. His and Brooking's book, 'LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,' comes out today. It may be the first study to link Mexican cartels, ISIS and reality TV villain Spencer Pratt.”—Axios “A fantastic read.”—The LoopCast“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"...a blueprint on how to think, operate and survive in this operational environment."—Army Magazine “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 “...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 "....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 “This book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every corporate strategist and government leader.”—OODA-Loop“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 “...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“This timely work provides a fascinating and often frightening portrait of the many ways social media is being weaponized and used to manipulate . . . 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, STARRED review “Important resource...more than 100 pages of source notes attest to the thoroughness of their research, and Singer and Brooking have gone to very dark cyber places to bring these facts to light, analyzing ideas and organizations that may give readers nightmares and that can catalyze actual violence. LikeWar should be required reading for everyone living in a democracy and all who aspire to.”—Booklist, STARRED review “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.”—Crispin Burke, Task & Purpose“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 “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 “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 “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
In which Facebook becomes a Clausewitz-ian continuation of war by other means.Ever since the 2016 presidential campaign, it has dawned on many Americans that social media might just not be our friends—and certainly not the friends of democracy. As Singer (Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, 2009) and Brooking caution, though that campaign represents a historic use of social media on the part of the Trump machine to rebrand their candidate, "it was also a globe-spanning information conflict, fought by hundreds of millions of people across dozens of social media platforms." Those platforms are novel and not well-understood, but they are most definitely what military planners call "battlespaces." The Islamic State group has used social media to recruit jihadis from across the world; Russia, as we are increasingly learning, has deftly used those media to influence elections; kidnappers in places like Colombia and Mexico use them to select targets, harvesting information on habits and whereabouts. Some of the text is unnecessarily obvious; few readers will not know, for instance, that the internet has grown explosively in the last generation, as the authors patiently explain. But much is novel: Singer and Brooking sagely note the intensity of interpersonal squabbling online as a moral equivalent of actual combat, and they also discuss how "humans as a species are uniquely ill-equipped to handle both the instantaneity and the immensity of information that defines the social media age." The United States seems especially ill-suited, since in the Wild West of the internet, our libertarian tendencies have led us to resist what other nations have put in place, including public notices when external disinformation campaigns are uncovered and "legal action to limit the effect of poisonous super-spreaders." Information literacy, by this account, becomes a "national security imperative," one in which the U.S. is badly lagging and indeed serves as a negative example for the rest of the world.A timely, urgent look at a world of electronic sheep—and wolves aplenty, too.