Social networks and the advocacy of violence

Social networks, instant messages, memes or even stories are published without corroborating facts, contaminating every platform as if it were a virus difficult to contain
A man holding a smart phone with a Facebook logo as its screen wallpaper in front of a WhatsApp messenger logo - Photo: Dado Ruvic/REUTERS
27/08/2017
03:20
Mercedes Baltazar
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Today, we are aware of the terrorist attacks via Twitter, in real time and being reported by alleged first-hand witnesses. Manchester, Morocco, Paris, Barcelona... How many times did you share a photo, a video or just a description of facts? Were you sure of the source or truthfulness of the content?

Between August 2015 and December 2016, Twitter suspended 636,248 accounts linked to terrorism and, without going any further, this week a video, allegedly attributable to the Islamic State (IS) went viral, threatening the Spanish population with a possible new attack in the near future. In hours, all the personal information of the potential author was published, without being corroborated by the authorities.

Terror propaganda has always been an important element of the attacks, hence the importance of ratifying the authorship and making clear in the public opinion the objective of an incident. The immediacy of social networks allows the user to follow in real time what happened in different parts of the world, but where is the balance between the benefit of such communication and to contribute spreading terror?

The vast majority are images and videos out of context amplifying the effect of the attack by turning it international rather than local. This is one of the ultimate goals of terrorist groups.

It is true that no one would think that a retweet can be in tune with the ultimate goals of such an organization.

Social networks, instant messages, memes or even stories are published without corroborating facts, contaminating every platform as if it were a virus difficult to contain.

The discussion has dimensions that go beyond the apology of violence itself: the information storm has the potential to spread lack of compassion for the victims and racism or accusations without grounds. One of the most emblematic examples was the subReddit created in 2013: "Find the Boston bomber", which unleashed a witch hunt that ended with the suicide of a 22-year-old accused in social networks, after being confused with the real bomber.

Therefore, let us be aware that an image taken with the cell phone could become a national or international chain and contribute to replicate the terror a retweet at a time.

Mercedes Baltazar (@lamarimer) is a member of Meraki Mexico.

sg

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