Head of editorial for MENA is part-time officer in the 77th Brigade, an 'information warfare' unit which has worked on 'behavioural change' projects in the region
The head of the British Army has described the 77th Brigade's talents as including "social media, production design, and Arabic poetry" (British Army)
By Ian Cobain
Published date: 30 September 2019 08:00 UTC
Last update: 2 weeks 2 days ago
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”.
Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences.
What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees to pursue external interests”, while the MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.
'Using non-lethal engagement... as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries'
- The British Army
The 77th Brigade's headquarters is located west of London. It brought together a number of existing military units such as the Media Operations Group and the 15 Psychological Operations Group.
At its launch, the UK media was told that the new unit of “Facebook warriors” would be around 1,500 strong, and made up of both regular soldiers and reservists. In recent months, the army has been approaching British journalists and asking them to join the unit as reservists.
While clearly engaged in propaganda, the MoD is reluctant to use that word to describe the unit’s operations.
Instead, the British army’s website describes the 77th Brigade as “an agent of change” which aims to “challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries”.
MacMillan, whose editorial responsibilities at Twitter also cover Europe and Africa, was a captain in the unit at the end of 2016, according to one British army publication. The MoD will not disclose his current rank.
His involvement with the 77th Brigade was made public when he disclosed it on his page at LinkedIn, the online professional networking site.
As well as outlining his responsibilities at Twitter, MacMillan wrote that he had an interest in politics and international affairs, had trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy, “and am a reserve officer in the British Army serving in 77th Brigade, which specialises in non-lethal engagement”.
His page has recently been edited to remove all references to his service with 77th Brigade.
'Behavioural Change for the Middle East Region'
MacMillan is not alone in outlining his involvement with the unit on his LinkedIn page.
A former 77th Brigade officer has said on his page that he served with the unit’s “Information Warfare Teams” in the UK, Bosnia, France, Kenya and Albania.
Another, a former officer in the UK’s Royal Navy, has said that while serving with the 77th Brigade he was “the lead component on Behavioural Change for the Middle East Region and Counter-Radicalisation”.
This person - who is not a Twitter employee - added that his duties included “advising the Jordanian Armed Forces and Royal Hashemite Court” and that he was also seconded to the Strategic Effects Team at the UK Ministry of Defence.
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/twit ... rfare-unit