Moon of Alabama — Sept 30, 2019
The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established.
Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company’s UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war.
The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.
The 77th Brigade is a troll farm:
They call it the 77th Brigade. They are the troops fighting Britain’s information wars.
From office to office, I found a different part of the Brigade busy at work. One room was focussed on understanding audiences: the makeup, demographics and habits of the people they wanted to reach. Another was more analytical, focussing on creating “attitude and sentiment awareness” from large sets of social media data. Another was full of officers producing video and audio content. Elsewhere, teams of intelligence specialists were closely analysing how messages were being received and discussing how to make them more resonant.
The 77th Brigade’s job is to produce dark propaganda in support of British (military) operations:
What do we know about 77th Brigade? Let me quote a written MoD parliamentary answer published in March 2015. The Brigade exists “to provide support, in conjunction with other Government agencies, to efforts to build stability overseas and to wider defence diplomacy and overseas engagement”. That’s a highly political rather than military remit.
The parliamentary answer goes on to say the Brigade is “leading on Special Influence Methods, including providing information on activities, key leader engagement, operations security and media engagement”. Note the phrase “special influence methods”, which is straight out of Orwell’s 1984. And notice the reference to “media engagement”. Since when has the British Army had a legitimate role in trying to influence the media?
A really interesting and dangerous aspect of the 77th Brigade is its mixed military-civilian character: