Sunday, December 2, 2012

The war on Twitter

“Innovating Public Diplomacy,” by Jacob Comenetz, details how the increase of internet access, cell phone usage and the surge in social media has changed the world we live in  and how we do public diplomacy. A statement in particular from the article grabbed my attention.  New York Times Columnist Roger Cohen stated, “There are many more networks in our future than treaties.” This statement made me think of how the technological revolution has not only transformed public diplomacy, but how we conduct war as well. 

A recent story featured in the Huffington Post highlighted the usage of Twitter by the Israeli army and Gaza militants to, "fire at each other across the Twittersphere". Soldiers on each side took to the social medium as a tool to send threatening tweets to the opposition as well as rally support amongst their followers.   The young soldiers are not the only ones taking to Twitter.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also partook in the action by tweeting a photo of a young bleeding girl, in an attempt to warn Hamas that, “Israel will not tolerate rocket attacks on its citizens”. 

Israel, Hamas Fight Twitter War

 Social media is not only being used as a tool to intimidate. Young Soldiers from the IDF are utilizing Instagram as an innovative way to inspire their followers by positing themselves in thier IDF uniform, but in an uncharacteristic state, such as posting pictures relaxing in the sun or a photo showing the uniform as a fashion staple.  We are yet to know what impact this ambivalence will have  upon the relationship between the soldier serving in the war and the audience watching them back home. 

 With the advent of social media on the battle field, I am interested to see how social media will continue to influence how we conduct war just as it changed how we conduct public diplomacy. 


  1. Vanessa,

    Thanks for the interesting post, and for including these photos. I certainly hadn't seen images like this before, and you raise an interesting point about Twitter becoming a vehicle for individual members of the armed forces to communicate in a fairly open forum. As Twitter increasingly provides a platform both for combative messages between warring groups, and for non-combat related expression from members of the military, the overall theme is that the civilian public is exposed more immediately to the world of the soldier. I so often have thought about what it must feel like to be an individual in a military environment where the priority and goal must be collective survival, not individual expression. That soldiers are communicating directly across cyberspace is very intriguing, and I wonder if there will be long term effects as far as how the civilian public views wars and armed combat in general. Will it really compress the time and space between those of us not near conflict zones and those who are living in them?

  2. This is a very interesting blog post and brings up some questions. Will/should soldiers be allowed to blog about conflicts? Will governments restrict the content and quash dissenting opinions? Social media can be used as a tool to foster and gain support for specific movements by putting a human face on war. It makes it harder to demonize the actions of soldiers when you see then behaving like regular citizens. There is a humanizing aspect to social media that has yet to be understood by societies and governments and may cause social media platforms to be tools of manipulation by governments. As social media becomes an integral part of modern communication the ways which governments and organizations use them will be interesting to see.

  3. I really appreciated this post in that this has been largely viewed as a controversial topic given the recent issues. I think as critics we have to realize the dangers of soldiers tweeting or posting about a war that is clearly taking innocent lives. I realize there are advantages to this in that it may be a more raw form of dialogue, but I'd also like to draw attention to the dangers, whether for national security or peoples' personal lives. It's important not to forget the human aspect of warfare, and I wonder if movements like this, really take that into consideration.


  4. Alex, I think you bring up a good question as to if soldiers should be allowed to blog about conflicts. As Gaby stated the use of social media can become an issue of national security. Especially if social media is being used as a tool of manipulation against the opposition or if unintentionl classified information is leaked. It will be interesting to watch over the years how this develops and unfolds.