Social Media and Terrorism
This week on Facebook: Posts on terrorism and the social media are easy to find given the obsession with jihadism in the global media where it is seen as the most prominent threat to the stability of any State and in particular to those States that espouse democracy. Those that the West call jihadists have a common interest with social media companies in wanting to reach a global audience.
This is the inevitable outcome of social media changing the global view of the world in which we all live. In this Global Village that social media played a a big part in creating, it has become the prime means of global communications between people with vested interests such as those the State call terrorists. It seems that the corollary to the suppression of terrorism is the suppression of democracy and nowhere is this more apparent than in the surveillance of the internet and social media by the State.
Monday: Uses and Abuses of Social Media in Conflict Zones — At present in conflicts from Iraq to Ukraine, from skirmishes in the South China Sea to civilian protests in Venezuela, social media has become a key tool for leveraging money, recruits, opinion and potentially, even victory. [July 2014]
Tuesday: ISIS propaganda: between social media and God — Far from being solved, the issue of how to tackle ISIS social media propaganda leaves us with complicated questions that involve the general public, policy-makers, and especially the media. [February 2015]
Wednesday: Why Facebook and Twitter Can’t Just Wipe Out ISIS Online — A blanket policy of banning anything that might be seen as inciting violence also could lead to questions of censorship, because one person’s hateful propaganda could be another’s free speech. [November 2015]
Thursday: The White House Asked Social Media Companies to Look for Terrorists — Here’s Why They’d #Fail. — Many believe that data mining is the crystal ball that will enable us to uncover future terrorist plots. But even in the most wildly optimistic projections, data mining isn’t tenable for that purpose. [January 2016]
Friday: Who’s responsible for stopping terrorists on social media? Social media is a great bastion of free speech, but this role is being threatened by the agendas of terrorist groups such as Islamic State.[January 2016]
In Friday’s article Veilleux-Lepage says that holding social media companies responsible for combating the spread of terrorist material on their platforms is a very delicate issue that raises questions regarding free speech. Users of social media sites are generally unaware of the extent to which its content is censored or who is monitoring their use of it. It was clear from the outset that global social media companies would have the power to control public knowledge and discourse, something that the State is acutely aware of.
The remark that the democratic power of social media comes from the fact that it’s unedited and that any form of censorship by social media companies gives them the power to control public knowledge and discourse, is equally true when the State also exercises control over the censorship of public knowledge and discourse. The whole point of such control is empowerment, including those States and their public administrations that claim to espouse democracy. The extent to which the democratic power of social media comes from the fact that it’s unedited is made moot by the actions of the social media companies themselves and their collusion with the State.¹
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