via Tech Crunch
Anyone who uses social media has witnessed or been apart of this somewhat new phenomenon of being a part of an unfolding event that is so huge it will change how we operate. So many have an opinion this way or that. Others have theories, and others just want it to go away. Wellm, it may be really bad for everyone to be flinging around this information like a hot potato. It could be debasing all involved as well as giving those who did the deed just what they want and need.
If terrorism requires an audience, then the recent mainstream adoption of social media may be giving violent actors a bigger stage than ever before. There are many reasons people lash out at the world, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that becoming the center of the attention could be a factor pushing some to commit atrocities. Our retweets could be delivering their messages of fear.
This is not to say social media infamy is the cause of any of the recent tragedies in Boston, or Sandy Hook, or anywhere else. I have no knowledge of the motives of the suspects in those cases. But watching the world feverishly tweet and Facebook post about the manhunt unfolding in Watertown last night frightened me. I couldn’t help but wonder if other angry, disturbed, or mentally ill individuals might be watching, too, and craving that same notoriety. I shuddered to think of a future where a terrorist in hiding laughs as they see their actions trigger millions of mentions.
Some believe that social media’s role is no different than that of traditional media years ago — that terrorists and killers in the 1920s would have just been just as attracted to becoming a newspaper headline as the subject of a sea of tweets. I disagree. Those old outlets were broadcast mediums; they weren’t participatory. Listening to reports of catastrophe on the radio and discussing them with people nearby doesn’t internalize the fear the same way as personally re-sharing and reacting to them in a real-time global forum. Social media instills emotions deeper.
According to Max Abrahms, PhD, a counter-terrorism research fellow at Johns Hopkins and author of “What Terrorists Really Want” from the International Security journal, ”One thing counter-terrorism researchers want to know is what is the motive of the terrorist. They want to know that because they want to deprive terrorism of any utility. If we could remove the value of committing terrorism they wouldn’t do it.” He tells me, “One of the main goals of terrorists is to get attention. By it’s very definition, terrorism requires an audience, so it’s no surprise the advent of terrorism came alongside the growth of mass media in the 1880s. Social media today no doubt spreads the message of terrorists even quicker and to more people.”
We’ve already seen perpetrators make use of social media to promote their point of view, like Christopher Dorner who was caught in an extended manhunt after killing several police officers in February. He may have wanted the manifesto he posted to Facebook accusing police of corruption to be widely shared. And we shared it. His message hit closer to home because it was our friends distributing it, rather than a newspaper like the letters from the Zodiac Killer.