NATO has disclosed some ways they use twitter according to a report released by AFP.
NATO has made three statements regarding their use of Twitter.
Firstly Wing Commander Mike Bracken has stated that NATO gets information from “open sources on the internet, we get Twitter,” which is a surprise to no one.
More interesting is that NATO officials have stated:
1) Libyans have been providing information in tweets regarding troop movements
2) NATO Intelligence monitor twitter to identify targets
There are a few points to make about this:
A) These activities run the risk of blurring the distinction between combatants and the civilian population which can endanger the general civilian population.
B) Regarding 1) – it isn’t stated whether these Libyans are combatants (integrated in the militia) or civilian, but its worth noting that civilians who engage directly in combat – which would include providing targeting information – would run a risk of being placed in the unfortunate category of “unlawful combatants” and facing criminal liability for their actions. Just to note, even if they were placed in this category, they should still be treated humanely but they might not be granted POW status.
C) States using civilians in violation of the law of war will be in breach of their responsibility under that law.
In a conflict ostensibly aimed at protecting civilians, which will doubtless inform the way future conflicts are conducted, consideration needs to be given to these issues.