Jan 25, 2018 in Research

Social Media


The role of communication and social media in the current political and economic environment is tangible because of the increased concern of online users with the events surrounding them. The emergence of new communication technologies and social networks, along with the development of mobile phones and laptop computers allow journalist and civilians to collect and disseminate data from all over the world. However, the digitization of the news has led to the compression of space and time and multiple scenes from the military field could be demonstrated in Twitter and on YouTube. All these services do not only inform the world audience, but also trigger further campaigns of terror and violence. This is of particular concern to such services as online BBC news, a world television company that translates violent scenes, incidents, and clashes that provoke further discussions, frictions and conflicts. On the one hand, the world has the right to witness the events from all over the world about disasters and catastrophes because they can activate the rescue operations and initiate emergence response and recovery planning. On the other hand, the overt discussions and exposition of facts can be distorted by constant responses and negative interpretation on the part of representatives of the different sides of discussion. Therefore, social media plays a major role in triggering violent conflicts rather than in promoting normal online communication through Twitter or Facebook.

Since the emergence of social media, its connection to violence and deterrence has also been approved due to its diverse influence and multiple interpretation of information. As such, the connection between ethnic wars and media covered can also be pursued. Contemporary issue is explained through prism of how people perceive the ethnic core. The use of ideas of ethnic enmity to interpret the conflict is new. Such military interventions have been analyzed in the context of nationalism and colonialism, leading to the emergence of boundaries of social groups. These borders were convenient for the power to limit interventions and manipulate political and economic processes that took place within the country. However, the omnipotent presence of social media gave rise to armed conflicts and interactions, which has become the recurrent them of the contemporary history. According to Allen and Seaton, “…these media-based interpretations also, perhaps comfortingly for the outside world, obliterate the origins of conflict in the politics of the Cold War and the colonial past and serve to conceal the impact of recent political decisions”. Currently, ethnic wars are represented as inevitable and intractable phenomena because they are considered to be the outcome of qualities inherent in terms of the societies involved. Media plays a in important part in responding to these emergent situations. They often offer influential role of societies involved into conflict. Therefore, individuals could also be portrayed both as victims and criminals trespassing the law. Due to the fact that media can be introduced as the main messenger and mediator, it can also influence other dimensions, including economic and political situation in the country.

Currently, the effects of social media is detrimental for the community in terms of the increased time spent on developing online stories and exchanging images, videos, and pictures. As a result of these interactions, it is often difficult to understand the difference between the real world and the one introduced online. Due to such discrepancies, there are cases when violent conflicts can also be differently perceived by the online users because of the distorted vision on the events happening in the real world. Additionally, conflict dynamics and its resolution is a challengeable issue because of the impossibility to control overtly the exchange of information. As a result, conflict escalation can be represented as the rise of disagreements, violence, and hostilities enhanced by politically incorrect responses, posts, and comments on a Facebook page. As an example, the Zimbabwe population has met rigid opposition on the part of the government because of the Operation Marambatsvina, as well because of the polarized communities and rupturing conflicts (Shale 2006). Dynamics of social media interactions, therefore, contribute significantly to the conflict sustainability.  Being trapped into political processes and governmental activities, social media often serves as a powerful tool for developing the original reasons for conflict.

The epoch of social media is closely associated with terrorist attacks, complex emergencies, and violent frictions in such countries as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Rwanda and Somali. Recently, the attention should be given to the events happened in the Egypt in 2011. Spring uprising has been heavily accompanied with social media announcements. In this respect, Beaumont (2011) states, “the instantaneous nature of how social media communicate self-broadcast ideas, unlimited by publication deadlines and broadcast news slots, explains in part the speed at which these revolutions have unraveled, their most viral spread across a region”. Additionally, it also explains loos, non-hierarchical structure of the movements developed on the web. The conflicts were significantly ignited by the so-called Twitter Revolution, which reflects the outbreak of the epoch of techno-realism. Its role has been created by people who were concerned with exposing news and events to publicity. The fact that some of the figures and individuals demonstrated on videos posted online have become popular is undeniable and, therefore, when TarakMekki, a Tunisian businessman and internet activist arrived to Canada, the government and citizens welcomed because of its increased popularity in the video called One Thousand and One Nights (Beaumont 2011). In response to the video posting, the Tunisian government imposed strict limitations on cyber activities. Although social media has a harmful effect on the conflict resolution, it still provides incentives to introduce the response actions. In particular, users all over the world had a possibility to communicate with the victims of the Tunisian uprisings. Overall sharing videos on YouTube do not imply introducing new information or personal vision; rather it is just an attempt to interact and communication. At the same time, revealing such information can provide new frictions and confrontation on the part of other users concerned with the problem. So, if Twitter has a negative effect on the course of events in Tunisia, similar problems could arise in Egypt as well. A more mature social media environment contributed significantly to organizing the protest against Mubarak, whose authority reaction was revealed through ordering mobile services to send messages to supporters.

The Egyptian Revolution has acquired attention since the posting created by Egyptian-born Ghonim on a Facebook page about the murder of Khaled Mohamed Said, a 28-year-old man from Alexandria. The posting received strong responses from all over the world, giving rise to vivid discussions on the revolutionary movement and violent actions of the Egyptian government. More and more online users have been attracted by posting leading to negotiations, protests, and the corresponding actions. The example shows the influence of social media have caused the audience’ responsive actions toward the events that take all over the world.  Although the case with Ghonim’s posting could be considered to be a positive tool for articulating and rendering information among millions of users who are concerned with the tragedy, technological advances cannot be regarded as a panacea to all cruelties occurring in the Middle East and other regions. Therefore, the case with Egypt introduces a mere place of considering the outrage actions caused by the period of economic recession, repression, and individual frustration. At the same time, the postings can even lead to more cruelties and violent actions on the part of the government that is reluctant to reveal the private information to the public.

The Egyptian events demonstrate the consequences of Facebook and Twitter activities that reflect on the regime distributed by e-mail. Egypt was connected with the outside world by means of social media devices. Besides, it is the only means for rendering and proliferating news on the revolution in Egypt. Similar concerns arose in Libya that has also encountered severe internet disruption by conveying the news from the country and transmitting mainstream media channels online. As a result, Beaumont (2011) has emphasized, “this information has been instrumental in gathering the attention of the citizens of the world who expressed solidarity with those suppressed individuals and may even put pressure on their own governments to react”. In this respect, transmitting information by online devices should not be harmful; rather, it should be aimed at enhancing the rescuing operations and developing new protection mechanism, such as emergency palling and preparedness plan.

It has been recognized that the Pacific region has encountered numerous conflicts over the last two decades. Some of the conflicts in the region occurred between 1987 and 2000, leading to the military coup d’état by Lieutenant-Colonel Rabuka, armed police and troops. Then, owners of Fiji Sun made a decision to shut down rather than published a self-censorship environment. The television studios were destroyed and attacked about the coup. With regard to the above-presented information, the role of social media in Pacific Island has encountered a set of problems influencing their operation and development. With diverse cultural and language groups, the local media fought to create efficient communication challenges to react to the region. The distance between the regions has not only promoted inter-island information exchange, but has also provided intra-country communication. Under-developed communication and transport infrastructure precludes media coverage of outer island societies, leading to the creation of center-periphery split. The establishment of local new services and online communication services provided by Pacific Islands News Association and Pacific Media Watch has introduced in regional news interaction.

When it comes to the adverse effects of media expansion and online technologies progress, it is necessary to mention the phrase ‘CNN effect’ that embraces the ideas that “real-time communications technology could provoke major responses from domestic audiences and political elites to global events” (Robinson 1999, p. 301). To be more exact, ‘CNN effect’ is also associated with humanitarian crisis and western interventions. In addition, it has been asserted that CNN is incompatible with manufacturing consent theory. What is more important is that media neglects the majority of important conflicts which need to be resolved. Selective media coverage, therefore, might also distort the audience’s response to the surrounding events because of the irrational distribution of news that are determined by humanitarian needs, but not by the necessity to share information. Thus, indirect and invisible media influences Western conflict management is much grater as compared to the influence on withdrawal and intervention decisions that discuss the CNN effect and its role in managing or igniting conflicts.

Currently, the participation in media cannot be referred as to intrinsic and latent function triggering military conflicts and violent interventions. In this respect, Carruthers (2000) insists on the fact that throughout the war and military conflicts, media organizations have advanced frictions and disturbances rather than have promoted fruitful communication and cooperation. In particular, the author recognizes the potential of journalist to put soldiers’ lives at risk during World Wars and Vietnam War.  As a balanced account, she strives to highlight the trends in self-censorship, as well as the effects of the media that gathers patriotism and support for war, while unveiling the alternatives to the war. Additionally, Carruthers (2000), discovers the purpose of terrorism consists in creating the target audience to suppress authorities to cede to terrorist requirement because of the fear. The created relationship between media and terrorism is especially important in comparison to traditional warfare. Thus, the author assumes, “the immediate physical targets of violence are less consequential than the message…transmitted by the fact of the attack” (Carruthers 2000, p. 56). In such a manner, the scholar creates a symbolic connection between war and media. In particular, widespread attention to media guarantees that terrorists strive to respond to the ubiquity of the media that has a direct influence on their terrorist attacks.

On the one hand, the omnipresence of media must provide a fresh insight into constant pursuit of truth. Therefore, the media is also affected by economics and marketplace that dictate the content and approaches to distributing news. They also manipulate the way issues are chosen and framed, as well as what information should be delivered to receive the corresponding reaction from the press. Chomsky and Herman (2010) argue that modern social media can be best reflected in regard to the propaganda model. Entertainment and news organizations commit themselves to get financial benefits from the established system. Their interests demand support from the authorized assumption of governmental and private power. In addition, the propaganda model is accompanied by outraged editors, journalists and broadcasters. In fact, the role of marketing and economics in affecting media coverage is not positive because it distorts the perception of the audience and, as a result on the current events and violent conflict is also ambiguous and irrelevant. Such a relation is also predetermined by the evident connection of social media with the government. In particular, radio and Television Company, along with social networks, requires governmental permission and, therefore, they depend largely on the legal measured taken by the state authorities. The influence of the government on such social networks as Twitter and Facebook is also undeniable because of the threat of uncontrollable flow of politically incorrect information.

While considering the negative role of social media, it is also essential to mention the connection between the events during the Cold War and the CNN effort that introduced controversial shifts in UN activities to resort to peaceful resolution and armed intervention. In fact, the influence of CNN participation in the Cold War is not approved, but the evaluation of the outcomes could be carried through the analysis of UN enforcement operations, as well as the underpinnings that guide the activities. The benefits of introducing news online are also connected with economical issues. In particular, the main goal of the media is often confined to developing debates and attracting attention of the audience. However, in the majority of cases, media often provokes new frictions and misconceptions leading serious disagreements and conflicts.

Media has also been the milestone in developing fruitful cooperation between government and their population. This is of particular concern to the military conflicts that take place during the Gulf War. The relationship between the media and the government has led to the distortion of fruitful interaction, and tension. The invasion of other countries has also had detrimental effect because of the government’s impossibility to suppress the population disturbances and adequately control the flow of the information.  As Bennet and Palletz (1994, p. 445) state, “while in these conflict the media adopted an ostensibly critical stance, during the Gulf War they appeared, by and large, to revert back to a supportive role, almost reminiscent of their position during World War II”.  Different interpretations could be provided for the time span, such as show period of the military actions, high tech features, and other aspects that fostered the military office to take control of media’s access to the campaign, rewarding those with opportunities for broadcasting. At the same time, there have been other factors that justify the patriotism and enthusiasm of media’s coverage, such as the establishment of tight connections between the policy making, public opinion and media, rather than between media and the government. In fact, the analysis of the Gulf War shows that the relationship between media and foreign policy should also be taken into consideration to develop an agenda-setting evaluation of how social media coverage provides foreign policy with salient directions for the public. Secondly, two potential outcomes of salience development have been represented in the studies by Soroka (2013) in terms of issue priming and reaction of the policy-makers to issue salience. In this respect, analyses highlight the combination of U. K. and U. S. commercial information. As a result of these studies, it has been concluded that the significance of issue salience and mass media is enormous as far as it concerns foreign policy and public opinion. Therefore, the analysis of these elements should be taken into consideration to understand how social networks can negatively contribute to the conflict resolution.

The influence of social networking activities on the external social and political process is closely associated with the quality of messaged transferred. In particular, the analysis of these relations refer to the way online users make use of different methods of communication, as well as perceive these functions in terms of the problems and opportunities they introduce.  Additionally, virtual world differs significantly from the real one and, therefore, it is almost impossible to control and filter all messages, images, and videos posted online. As a result, social media networks could become the underpinning for emerging conflicts of social, economic, and political nature.

There is a positive correlation between communication and conflict resolution abilities. According to Drussell (2012, p. 18), “the decline of face-to-face interaction will result in decreased ability to handle real-life conflicts”.  In this respect, the rapid expansion of online technologies can lead to the inability to enter interpersonal behavior that can become a serious obstacle to normal communication. As a result of these problems, the proliferation of postings and videos can deprive individuals of the responsibilities for the consequences these online responses could have on society in general. Overall, the Internet provides individuals, institutions, and communities with a powerful tool of collective action, information gathering, and communication. However, its impact on situations of fragility is not discussed. Nonetheless, OECD’s (p. 97) research supports the ideas that “Internet access and social media are already changing the balance of power between the state and civil society in fragile situations”. The role in the Arab Spring has been documented and discussed online, but the application of social networks is diverse. For instance, Facebook is used by 26 % of citizens in Tunisia and about 11 % in Egypt; only 5 % of users resort to online networks in Libya, whereas Yemeni people almost neglect the service because of only 1 % of users existing in the country (OECD 2013). Despite the low percentage of using Facebook and other social networks, the problem of conflict development in these countries is still connected with the information exchange in and online space. What is more important is that the governments in the developing world employ strict methods for producing new decisions and restricting the use of virtual space for discussing political and economic agendas both within the country and abroad.

Apart from the current trends in using online space for discussing global challenges and problems, much concern is connected with the terrorist attacks that are also heavily discussed on the World Wide Web. Indeed, the 9/11 events can become the precursors of cyber-terrorism, leading to disastrous events.  As Thussu and Freedman (2003, p. 176) report, “while the nightly news broadcasts drew increased audiences, the big winners, with the most dramatic and long-term increase were the cable news networks”.  Closer outlook on the patterns on media perception during critical situations suggests that correspondents and professional journalist assume that rely on media representation similar to the patterns they resorted in the past. Therefore, the majority of the U. S. citizens tend to draw information from the Internet right after the terror attacks in 2011.  Additionally, online bloggers and journalist have become prone to reproducing news on the individual behalf rather than on the behalf of the information and a television company. As a result of these changes, reporters believe that objectivity and transparency could be achieved through introducing independent articles, video reports, and photos. In such a manner it is possible to explore new opportunities for achieving credibility and uniqueness of opinion (Collins 2001).  Such a possibility opposes the veritable functions of journalism that are confined to mobilizing public in favor of determined government strategies rather than informing democratic community and enable them to shape educated opinions. 

Despite the fact that the freedom of press and journalistic independent is highly encouraged, the social media activities in which radio, television, and government are involved could not be associated with objectivity, justice, and transparent reporting (Rutten, Fedor, and Zvereva 2013). Indeed, the revolution of the World Wide Web has led to the rise of activists who take part in posting videos and images rather than providing real assistance and support of the victims of tragic events, movements, and revolutions, as it happened in Egypt in 2011 (Thusssu and Freedman 2003). In this respect, the deployment of videos on YouTube ignites the willingness of other to hunt for online sensation, discuss them online and leave their comments on the issues. However, some of online interaction can also increase the probability of other, culturally-predetermined conflicts. 

Hostility provoked by online video could be more dangerous that inappropriate actins provided by the government to capture the power over the civilized population. On the one hand, military interventions should be reported by the mass media devices because it keeps the county and people informed about the course of actions (Carafano 2012). On the other hand, when these actions violate human and ethical rights and overcome the existing norms and values, the pursuit for sensational video comes to the forth. Due to the inappropriate actions, Seethaler, Karmasin, Melischek and Wohlet (2013) assume that the role of media during war is often decisive because social networks often serve as PR tools popularizing violence, military confrontations, and terrorism.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that both the examples from Egypt, Tunisia and other countries of the Middle East demonstrate the adverse effect of Facebook and Twitter on the perception of the military event by the audience. Due to the enhanced flow of information, the population is unable to adequately react to the currently emerging confrontations, violent conflicts, and terrorist attacks. As a result, social media often ignite conflicts and misunderstanding leading to disastrous effects. Posting online videos and leaving comments could also become a serious threat for the peaceful existence in the global place.


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