War in 140 Characters

Yesterday, I commented on how odd it felt for me to be following the events of the SETAC conference via social media updates. Today, my friend Ray drew my attention to the prevalence of social media in the relaying the events of conflict and war. Specifically, how Israel and Hammas are using Twitter to report on Gaza “skirmishes”.

The following are a couple of stories that demonstrate the increasing role of social media in modern warfare.

War looks better through the Toaster Instagram filter.

  • While live-tweeting this campaign is quite novel, it raises serious questions about the nature of social media, and the role it plays on the modern battlefield. It also raises questions about the role of the companies themselves. Are these practices within the bounds of the Twitter and Facebook Terms of Service? These same questions were raised in 2009, when Twitter was used as a tool in the pro-democracy riots in Iran, and was very visible, and essential, during the Arab Spring. On June 18, 2009 Fast Company ran an article about The Dark Side of Twittering a Revolution where the author emphasized that they didn’t think that what was happening in Iran was a misuse of social media, but that it could be a slippery slope, noting that “we should be aware that, as these tools proliferate, they will inevitably be used for far more deadly goals.”

At the SpotOn London Conference session on How to do smart journalism on complex science, James Randerson of the Guardian commented that “live blogging adds interesting new depths to real-time events”, be it Curiosity landing on Mars, the presidential election, and now it would also seem, war.

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