The evolution of information technology (IT) revolutionised the world of warfare in ways never imagined before. History tells us that conflicts are part and parcel of every new major invention made in the field of IT: the invention of printing press in the fifteenth century brought religious wars in Europe leading to the breakdown of the Holy Roman Empire. Radio, directly and indirectly, fueled World War II. Most recently, social media brought the Arab Spring to the Middle East, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, and Donald Trump to the corridors of power. Interestingly, warfare which was a subject of nation-states is no longer confined to them, as social media brought the battlefield to individuals, organisations, institutions and groups. Today’s battlefield is no longer visible and defined and neither is it a matter between two adversaries. By bringing the battlefield to mobile screens, social media has completely changed the way wars are fought, analysed and reported. Social media warfare is a reality and it can no longer be ignored. Today it doesn’t matter if you are interested in war or not, war has already taken you in and now you are officially an actor in modern warfare. The 20th century, which was a time of kinetic warfare, brought death and destruction to the whole world. But in its second half, lessons learned were used to establish an international order aiming to bring an end to bloody wars. The post-1945 security system posed restrictions on the use of force. The invention of the A-bomb — which meant total destruction — changed the attitude of states towards warfare and opened a new era of growth and prosperity facilitated by economic integration as a perk of globalisation. As wars became costly and more destructive, states started to look for new ways to achieve their goals because the urge to fight and gain power as the innate characteristic of humans was still there. The information revolution, with the invention of new technologies, provided an opportunity to fulfil these human desires and the 21st century became a century of Non-Kinetic warfare. The start of this century has already taken states into its influence and now every other state is modernising and developing new technologies to prepare for wars to come where the battlefield is dispersed and unclear as it circles around digital domains; cyber warfare, hybrid warfare and fifth generation warfare. Let’s remember Sun Tzu’s principle; the supreme art of warfare is to subdue the enemy without fighting. The lethality of social media warfare is attributed to the weaponisation of information These categories of warfare have one common integral component and that is social media warfare. So to understand them, familiarising ourselves with social media warfare is of immense importance. Social media is no longer just a collection of apps used to share your vacation pictures and posting daily updates regarding your life, it has now become a major weapon of manipulation, deception and propaganda. It has all the ingredients that can be used to disrupt the economic, social and political systems of any country. It is has proved dangerous as traditional wars; and in fact is more dangerous in some ways because the enemy is no longer visible. Furthermore, it has blurred the lines between war and peace, between criminal acts and acts of war, between combatant and non-combatant, between adversary and non-adversary, and between the domestic and international environment. Propaganda and psychological warfare are not new, but social media due to its unique nature makes this kind of warfare more effective and lethal. Let’s remember Sun Tzu’s principle; the supreme art of warfare is to subdue the enemy without fighting. The lethality of social media warfare is attributed to the weaponisation of information. The available content gets weaponised when it is designed with careful strategies aiming to manipulate, deceive and confuse its target audience either through fake news or distortion of facts. The unique nature of social media defined through its reach, permanence and immediacy makes it a perfect tool as compared to traditional media, and the most effective and cheapest weapon to employ against any adversary. Furthermore, social media allows individuals to create their own facts and their own version of reality. Through this platform, they generate ideas, give meaning to reality and even generate conflicts because a well-crafted viral message supported by powerful imagery can become a massive campaign. As information gets decentralised on social media, it shifts power to individuals from states – who previously controlled information through traditional sources of media. This in result gives enough space to individuals and groups to create their own area of influence and empowers them in a way never imagined before. These characteristics make social media a weapon to wage political and psychological warfare that mostly aims to disrupt the social, economic and political system of a state by creating strategic narratives and changing perceptions. This is exactly the reason that in the modern world, states prefer to use these tactics against an adversary to achieve political and military goals without indulging in traditional war. Russia’s interference in US presidential elections and annexation of Crimea, Israel’s propaganda against Hamas are the prime examples of political warfare waged through the use of social media. The complexity of social media warfare, where most of the time actors and adversaries are unknown, where distinguishing combatant and non-combatants is difficult, makes it more dangerous than any other form of warfare where target and battlefield is known and defined. Today, every state and individual is vulnerable to this form of warfare. Like any other state, Pakistan is vulnerable too due to the existing internal fault lines in socio-politico-economic settings. The great news is that Pakistan’s military and political institutions are well aware of these threats but in the public domain these threats are considered unreal and untrue. This attitude needs to be changed by creating a realisation that it is as real as any other tradition threat. We need to realise the gravity of these threats because today the battlefield has reached our digital screens and we need to defend ourselves and our society. In this warfare, the victors are those who know how to shape the storylines that frame the target’s understanding, to provoke the responses that impel them to action, to connect with them at the most personal level, to build a sense of fellowship, and to organise to do it all on a global scale, again and again. Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, March 15th 2019.