Social media is consistently playing a role in controversial politics through leaders, politicians, and protestors using it as a tool for communication. With a diverse range of communication styles and its ability to connect multiple individuals, it is a complex network. It has become an integral part of the web’s evolution which can be accessed through multiple devices.
The role of social media has adapted to shape national and global political landscapes which developed through many instances and popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 (Niekerk & Maharaj, 2013). These examples and other relative incidents indicate that social media plays a significant, specific role in information-based conflict (2013). Throughout the article written by Brett Van Niekerk and Manoj Maharaj, the two researchers expand on the roles social media play in information warfare and the concept of Web 2. 0 in order to effectively be able to describe the potential capabilities of social media in this specific conflict. The authors explain the role of social media from an information warfare perspective (2013). Along with the main roles that social media plays in this online conflict, the article also considers the continuing use of social media in information disagreements and as a subset of Web 2. 0 technologies. Initially, all social networks, blogs, and/or wikis are considered variables of Web 2. 0 technologies. Web 2. 0 refers to the second generation of World Wide Web which focuses on the ability for individuals to collaborate and share their knowledge and information online (Beal 2017).
The concept of Web 2. 0 is consistently mentioned within the article as a superset of social media. Different social media platforms such as twitter, facebook, and instagram have become synonymous with Web 2. 0 (O’Reilly 2005). Overall, social media can be considered as a “many-to-many communication tool in which provides interactivity between online users and content especially when it is accompanied by mobile devices” (2013). Moreover, social media has been proven to be an effective tool in advocacy and emergency communications. For instance, mobile phones were a key communication tool during the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 while also being the first time phones were used as a fundraising tool (Coyle & Meier, 2009). Social media also played a critical role in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan 2011: more than 1,200 Twitter messages an hour were emerging from Tokyo within only an hour of the earthquake. Mainly, twitter was used to provide information on available shelters for those who were stranded and to raise funds due to the horrific damages (2009).
Furthermore, the article discusses the role social media plays in information conflict, whereas information conflict is considered to be an application of information warfare in both military and civilian contexts (Denning 1999). Social media may encompass a diverse range of communication, making it a very complex network. Information conflict is constantly conforming and reorganizing itself considering it is influenced by another disruptive, complex system: social media (1999). The usage of social media is not always successful when it comes to politics and conflict. For instance, the government’s attempts to block access to alleviate riots was deemed successful. Technically, riots and/or any uprisings that occur cannot be instigated through social media without the help of political and social climate (Kerrigan 2011). Therefore, social media can be considered a supportive tool and is definitely not sufficient enough to create social uprisings all on its own. Over the years, the media has become easily accessible and a place for all individuals to come together to debate and share ideas, much like a public sphere.
Considering its omnipresent nature, it is likely that social media will become even more prevalent in information-based conflict, and its social roles may increase in significance. All in all, social media will remain as a tool to allow individuals on the internet to be connected to any information conflicts that may arise. It is an effective way for people to keep up with any political and/or societal conflicts. Also, it possesses the capability to facilitate changes and communication. Its ability to make communication easier and serve as an unrehearsed command and mass communication platform for psychological operations will remain (2013). Due to its influence in society constantly changing between positive or negative, the final state of social media in information conflict is yet to be figured out.