On the 15 June, Abigail Watson, Senior Research Officer, and Liam Walpole, Senior Policy Officer, both of the Remote Warfare Programme, presented at the National Army Museum’s conference in London entitled, ‘Propaganda: Persuasion, information, deception’. The conference brought together academics, practitioners, researchers and government officials to examine how the evolution of conflict and burgeoning access to information from social media and smartphones has impacted the way militaries and governments think about the role of information as a military and foreign policy tool.  

Liam and Abigail’s paper, entitled ‘Winning the Narrative in an Information Age’, drew on the programme's research on the shift in military engagements post-Iraq and Afghanistan, where the UK has become increasingly reliant on 'light footprint' approaches that attract less public and parliamentary attention. They argued that in an age where both enemy forces and civilian witnesses have cameras and Wi-Fi readily available building policies on the assumption of complete secrecy is increasingly untenable – and government control of the narrative will be the first to suffer.

Abigail and Liam used the case studies of the UK government’s ‘no comment’ policy over its special forces, as well as its record of misleading and contradicting statements over its security partnership with Saudi Arabia as examples of where more, not less, transparency could help the UK government take command of the narrative and increase its credibility. Falling back on the default position not to comment, they reasoned, could in fact risk undermining British efforts to win the battle for ideas as well as those on the ground.