Steve Stottlemyre

While many people continued to contribute conventional humanitarian information to the map, the sudden shift toward information that could aid international military intervention was unmistakable.

The Middle East has recently witnessed a series of popular uprisings against autocratic rulers. In mid-January 2011, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country, and just four weeks later, protesters overthrew the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yemen’s government was also overthrown in 2011, and Morocco, Jordan, and Oman saw significant governmental reforms leading, if only modestly, toward the implementation of additional civil liberties. Protesters in Libya called for their own ‘day of rage’ on February 17, 2011, marked by violent protests in several major cities, including the capitol Tripoli. As they transformed from ‘protestors’ to ‘Opposition forces’ they began pushing information onto Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, reporting their firsthand experiences of what had turned into a civil war virtually overnight. The evolving humanitarian crisis prompted the United Nations to request the creation of the Libya Crisis Map, which was made public on March 6, 2011. Other, more focused crisis maps followed, and were widely distributed on Twitter. While the map was initially populated with humanitarian information pulled from the media and online social networks, as the imposition of an internationally enforced No Fly Zone (NFZ) over Libya became imminent, information began to appear on it that appeared to be of a tactical military nature. While many people continued to contribute conventional humanitarian information to the map, the sudden shift toward information that could aid international military intervention was unmistakable. How useful was this information, though? Agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community convert raw data into useable information (incorporated into finished intelligence) by utilising some form of the Intelligence Process. As outlined in the U.S. military‚Äôs joint intelligence manual, this consists of six interrelated steps all centred on a specific mission. It is interesting that many Twitter users, though perhaps unaware of the intelligence process, replicated each step during the Libyan civil war; producing finished intelligence adequate for consumption by NATO commanders and rebel leadership. It…