Perception has always played an important, and often understated, role in warfare. Before a nation can wage war on its enemies, it must first convince its populous of two things: the first is that an enemy indeed exists, and the second is that the threat presented by said enemy can only be mitigated through force. We see this song and dance in the United States each time tensions begin to rise with a national opponent: Defense officials, and in turn, journalists seem to devote the entirety of their attention to the unavoidable threat presented by Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East, North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iraq’s hidden weapons of mass destruction, or Iraq’s brutal killing of babies in Kuwait, and so forth.

These media campaigns aren’t inherently nefarious from a national security standpoint: When an opponent presents a clear and present danger to a nation’s security or prosperity, sometimes war is the unavoidable result — and a nation’s government and military needs popular support to win that war. These techniques, however, are as old as politics and storytelling — and what we’re seeing in the digital world of 21st century warfare is another thing entirely.

These aforementioned examples all relate to the American government engaging with the American public by way of its media apparatus. This system, while ripe with flaws, draws strength from its reliance on dialogue and debate: vetting sources, facts, and positions before a piece goes to print and then being forced to defend assertions against broad public scrutiny. Nations like Russia, North Korea, and Turkey, however, have learned the distinct value of engaging with foreign populations directly, circumventing the media’s adversarial approach and instead leveraging information we offer up readily to better engage each of us as individuals through tactics one might find in any Marketing 101 text book.

Sometimes, the approach is about establishing a common ground and incorporating a national position into it (“I really know what you mean about needing a border wall near Mexico, we have the same problem with the Kurds!”), other times it’s about the volume of messages delivered (because of source amnesia, you’ll begin to accept something you see often enough as true). Often, these campaigns involve using bots or computer operatives to pose as Americans in dialogue, whereas other efforts are tailored specifically to suit trending topics, using up-to-date meme templates and hashtags to advance a narrative.

These approaches yield different results depending on the circumstance. It would be hard, for instance, to convince Americans that England is no longer a valuable ally. However, it’s much easier to sway opinions about complex topics that are already politicized and for which many Americans simply don’t have the time to be well versed in. Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria perfectly represents this sweet spot between controversy and ignorance: it’s a topic many Americans feel the need to take a position on, but it’s so complex and politically interwoven that it can be difficult to fully grasp the entirety of the concept. In that confused space, there’s ample opportunity to inject national narratives into personal conversation on social media in a way that can sway perceptions.

If you’re looking for evidence of how powerful social media can be when it comes to conflict, you need look no further than national attempts at curbing their opponent’s ability to post content that would run counter to their own narratives. Turkey, as a recent example, began their offensive into Syria by blocking access to popular social media sites and applications like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp in communities near the border. Blocking these pages limited access to outside news sources and prevented those closest to the fighting from posting images, videos, or experiences as the battles commenced.

Social media is where a lot of Turkish people will [go to] receive reliable news now,” explained Adrian Shahbaz, research director for technology and democracy at civil liberty watchdog Freedom House. “With everything happening in the southeast regarding the conflict now in Syria, it’s not surprising that the Turkish authorities have resorted to this wide-ranging crackdown on social media.”

That’s not the only way Turkey is working to keep perceptions of their Syrian offensive positive. Turkish police have already arrested 78 Turkish citizens for social media posts that were critical of the Syrian offensive. Turkey’s national police claimed that these posts “incited hatred” toward Turkish officials, military, and law enforcement — echoing language prominent in America’s own heated debates regarding social media as a means to incite violence.