What is psychometric warfare and how destructive it can be to countries like Sri Lanka?
With Cambridge analytica scandal: one of the biggest data breach in the modern world, the world had a glimpse at the hard time about to come with digital media. If the power of data is misused like that the future would not be bright as we expect.
In brief, what Cambridge Analytica did was getting personal data of around 50 million users through social media and use those data to micro-target users to support political agendas.They claim to have won the White House for Donald Trump using social media and also being accused of involving in many other significant political campaigns.
The strategy of Cambridge Analytica is getting to know the people, understand their characters, evaluate their decision making patterns and show them the right message at the perfect time. We can name this highly effective process of influencing people’s decision making power as psychometric warfare. It’s purely playing with people’s emotions, hopes and fears.In future, wars will not be started by causing physical damage.Instead of that, ideas will be planted into our minds, the perfect ingredients to let them grow inside our minds will be spoon fed to us and we will start wars.
Is that what happened in Sri Lanka recently?
Sri Lankan government had to ban Facebook and Whatsapp for a week to control riots in Digana since most of the hate speeches and racists contents were being spread through those channels. If you are a regular social media user then just think about how many posts related to racism you have seen over the past year. The number is huge. And also spreading of falls news on every topic was also a huge issue on SM over the past years. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe stated in parliament that “A certain group has been spreading through social media over the last nine months that there is a threat to the Sinhalese from the Muslims.”
All these posts and spreaded news can be a campaign of a party like Cambridge Analytica who would benefits by making a political imbalance inside the country. On 24th March, Prime Minister Wickramasinghe stated Cambridge Analytica even canvassed him to get work for the UNP and he refused. If Cambridge Analytica thought they have opportunities in Sri Lanka then we cannot assure that there are no other organisations like them on Sri Lankan soil, operating in shadows. Maybe we are being emotionally targeted. Maybe a hidden party is using our hopes and fears to make us do what they want. If the powerful countries like the United States are struggling to fight this new method of influencing then what would a small country like Sri Lanka can do?
The only thing we can do is being more careful in future. we have to act more intelligently and weight the information properly before jump into decisions only if we need to prevent unnecessary incidents like Digana which could have easily lead to another civil war in the country.