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Meme letters concept vector illustration of happy young people following internet trends, reposting and publishing new trends in social network. Flat human hands hold meme letters on blue background

NATO’s member states should embrace the potent digital tool.

The Power of Memes

April 2020, Number 10.02

In 2017 there were 2.46 billion unique social media users worldwide. By 2021, the number is expected to exceed 3 billion, according to the database company Statista, with 71% of all internet users on social media by then. Most of this growth is coming from the world’s developing regions: China, Africa, South Asia — areas where large populations are being introduced to high levels of technology and sophisticated methods of information operations. Beyond this, the reach of these sites makes them indispensable for those trying to relay a message to their citizenry. For example, during the September 2018 referendum in North Macedonia concerning changing the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia, the Global Engagement Center, the newly authorized lead for the United States government’s efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from international terrorist organizations and foreign countries, estimated that the U.S. Embassy in North Macedonia (based on its follower counts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) had the power to reach the entire population of the country simply by using its social media accounts. That is how powerful social media can be...

Excerpt from Matthew Schleupner, “The Power of Memes,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 10, No. 2, 2020: 20-25.

Maj. Matthew Schleupner, serves as a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe. He holds a master’s degree in international policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Toledo, and a law degree from Western Michigan University’s School of Law.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.