Final Research Paper: Social Media in War

In the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, taking place even as I blog, more than 422 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza City, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  Hamas gave conflicting information, tweeting that it had shot 527 rockets instead.  Wait, did I hear Hamas making a news release on its conflict with Israel through Twitter?  There is more.  IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich tweeted a photo of a baby bloodied from a Hamas rocket attack.  Hamas had a similar riposte, tweeting a screen shot of the mangled body of a child, presumably from heavy Israeli bombing.

This current conflict could be the one in which Twitter and other social media platforms play a most significant role in war.  Indeed, social media’s influence in armed conflict is set to grow.  Every physical, kinetic conflict has had an intangible non-kinetic side.  Of the latter, a considerable portion lies in the information realm.  From high-level strategic communications right down to tactical disinformation, information has been and will continue to be a critical instrument of power.  As the latest and most rapidly-growing propagator of information, it seems as though social media will be featured for a long time to come in war.

Thus far, much of the hype about social media has been about its democratizing effect, its ability to mobilize, to set off revolutions, and to overthrow governments.  However, not much has been discussed about its role in war.  What is its history thus far in war?  Why do warring factions appear to be employing this medium increasingly?  Has it been effective for those who use it?  What is unique about it that separates it from other forms of mass media?  How does it change the nature of information in warfare, or does it even change the nature of warfare itself? What are the other questions that need to be addressed, that are not yet addressed at this point in time?

The research paper will examine the trends in the use of social media in war, through a broad survey of the history of its use.  It will also look at the other areas in which social media has been active, and attempt to apply the discoveries and lessons of its use into the context of warfare, in order to predict the kind of influence it that is capable of having in war, as well as to examine the changes; possibly fundamental changes; that it could make to the very nature of warfare and how it is practiced.

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