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Academic calls for an Australian ‘infowar militia’

A new discussion paper makes the case for a national, crowdsourced civilian cyber security defence reserve.

user icon David Hollingworth
Mon, 08 Jul 2024
Academic calls for an Australian “infowar militia”
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A discussion paper released by the non-profit Social Cyber Institute has called on the Australian government to stand up a “cyber intelligence and information militia”.

Crowdsourcing an Australian cyber intelligence and information militia, written by Bond University’s Professor Dan Svantesson, calls on the writings of several academics and the experiences of other nations, particularly Estonia, which already has “cyber reserve capabilities”.

Noting that Australia needs to adopt a “whole-of-society” approach to cyber security and defence, Svantesson said such a militia could operate in the same way as the modern Neighbourhood Watch or the formation of civilian Coastwatchers during World War II.


“Australia needs to prepare for things to get worse, including the risk of military conflict in our region,” Svantesson said in a statement.

“In 2022, one month before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden set up a new Psychological Defence Agency to counter modern information warfare, but Australia has yet to react in a way that recognises the central role of the community in providing that defence.”

Professor Greg Austin of the University of Technology Sydney – who was cited in the paper – said that “this paper on an infowar militia is a wake-up call about a missing link in national defence”.

“Recent statements by ASIO chief Mike Burgess on the disinformation threat to Australia have not been matched by clarity on who leads on defeating such campaigns,” Austin said.

“No existing Australian agency has the mission or the tools to combat these threats in their entirety.”

The paper noted that a similar organisation has already informally formed following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The North Atlantic Fella Organisation is a civilian community formed to counter Russian propaganda, support Ukraine, and “troll” Russian officials and organisations, which effectively defines the role of such a militia, but at a more narrow level.

The paper said that “what is proposed here is a ‘cyber militia’ that undertakes defence-related activities (broadly defined) in or pertaining to cyber space on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth’s formal recognition, and under the coordination and guidance of the Commonwealth, but outside the ambit of Australia’s regular armed forces or national security structure”.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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