The formation of social media open source intelligence networks in the Russia-Ukraine conflict

The popularity of social media has led to the rapid rise of "super-empowered individuals" represented by "citizen journalists". These super empowered individuals obtain a large amount of first-hand information through various means on social media, becoming the main source of information diffusion. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a modernized war in the age of social media. The parallel "hot war" in the physical world and the "information war" in the digital space are the prominent features of this war. One type of military blogger is widely active on social media such as Twitter, and spontaneously engages in open source intelligence (OSINT) research. That is to collect, integrate, analyze, process and share open source information on the Internet. Social media, satellite images, mobile phone data and public websites are all important sources of information. These military bloggers specialize in tracking and publicly sharing weapon information and military dynamics in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, forming a social media open-source intelligence network that influences public opinion on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This new type of intelligence network has a great impact on the production of open source intelligence and the direction of online public opinion.

Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a group of military bloggers, mainly civilians, have shared war-related information on Twitter and other social platforms. Its identities are mainly divided into five categories: military enthusiasts, military journalists, war studies scholars, active duty or veterans, and open source intelligence self-organizations established by volunteers. Among them, the first four categories are personal bloggers, and the fifth category is organizational bloggers. These military bloggers constitute a social media open source intelligence network related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

1. Personal military blogger

Under the model of relationship empowerment in the social media era, individual military bloggers continue to share military information related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict by virtue of their sources of information and technology, and gradually grow into super nodes in the social network. Their followers and tweets are growing by the day. For example, the Twitter blogger “Ukraine Weapons Tracker” (@UAWeapons) has been tracking and releasing information on weapons since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. From the creation of the account on February 20, 2022 to the end of October, the account has gained 749,000 followers. These individual military bloggers set off a "wave" of open source intelligence on the Twitter platform. As individual forces in the open source intelligence network, they influenced the online military discussion on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

2. Organizational military bloggers

The popularization of Internet information technology has made interpersonal connections more convenient, and the Internet has become the main field for various social gatherings. The "self-organization" established based on the relationship of interest and fate has become a new organizational method of the digital society. Organizational military bloggers have become another important force in the open source intelligence network of social media. They establish open source intelligence self-organization in a bottom-up manner, and volunteers from all over the world contribute open source intelligence to them. Open source intelligence self-organizations related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict mainly include: military investigative news organizations "Oryx" and "Bellingcat", military open source intelligence repository "WarSpotting", open source intelligence online magazine UK Defense Journal and others. These self-organizations use self-built websites as their fronts, and often present themselves as neutral, charitable, and just. As organizational bloggers, they are active on Twitter, attracting the attention of a large number of netizens.