Face it. Social media is a Weapon

A whole lot of stuff is generated on the Web all the time. Well, you knew that, but do you know the numbers?

Well, according to Marc Goodman, author of Future Crimes, every minute of every day, netizens
•    Send 204,166,667 emails
•    Share 684,478 pieces of content on Facebook
•    Tweet 100,000 times
•    Post 36,000 photos on Instagram
•    Send 34 million WhatsApp messages

That’s quite a bit of information every 60 seconds, don’t you think? Put it this way, by the time you’re done reading this article, the cycle should have happened twice.

And guess what? Most of it’s unregulated. Sure, there’s some censorship on whether it’s appropriate or not, but honestly, the Internet is a public space, and like many public spaces, few try to regulate it.

Well, that’s not a crime. If you think it is, then you probably don’t mind the NSA reading your emails too. And anyway, regulating everything on the Internet just isn’t feasible. Unless you want to create jobs for the whole unemployed world and then a couple of billion more people, that is.

But there are some cases where information should be regulated.

These days, when something as major as a terrorist attack happens, social media is quick to go crazy about it. Pictures are posted. “I’m safe” messages are sent. News sites give endless updates. This posting spree can give outsiders a clear picture of what’s happening, a marvel of modern technology.

But it’s the Internet. Meaning the terrorists can see it too.

In the case of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, this was used to deadly effect. The terrorists were armed with guns and phones. During the attack, they learnt about a police helicopter landing men atop one of the buildings from a Twitter photo. This information helped them set a trap for the police. Later, when the BBC reported that the terrorists were suspected to be in room 360 or 361 of a hotel, they managed to escape. These leaks probably resulted in several more unnecessary deaths.

I’m not sure how much the world learnt from that incident. After all, it’s not the first time.

Even without the use of a phone or a computer, the media still managed to ruin a military operation. This happened during the 1972 Munich massacre. The Black September terrorists were holding their Israeli captives in an apartment in the Olympic Village while the police took up positions outside to assault the terrorists. However, the news crews present were filming the action and broadcasting it live on television. As a result, the terrorists, who were watching everything from a TV in the apartment, saw the danger and threatened to kill the hostages. The police operation abruptly ended.

And that was 44 years ago. Sometimes we humans just don’t learn.

But terrorists are humans too. That is, they know perfectly well how to navigate the Internet, and what’s more, how to use it maliciously. Even the Islamic State uses social media to further their cause. They have a 24-hour Helpdesk, along with a Twitter account and a YouTube account to teach people how to be terrorists. Let’s face it, the terrorists are more tech-savvy than most of us.

It’s time we as netizens figured out discretion. I mean, yes, we can discuss stuff on the Internet, but unless you’re in a private chat, you need to remember that most of the stuff you post on Facebook and Twitter is available to the public. Which means that whatever you’re trying to say, you should ensure you’re not endangering someone else by saying it. Especially when lives are on the line.

That’s the problem with the Web, you see. When we’re talking to people in front of us, we tend to be more discreet. When we’re typing on a keyboard, however, some people’s tongues (or fingers, I guess) seem to get looser.

I can’t really suggest anything that people should do in this case. I guess all I can say is think twice before you type.

And another four times before you post.

2 responses to “Face it. Social media is a Weapon”

  1. When I was in the military, we were often lectured about how everything we post can be seen by terrorists. I’m against regulating the internet, but people should be more informed about what they post in regards to attacks. They should be informed that the terrorist are on social media and anything we post about it can be used against us. People shouldn’t talk on social media about an ongoing attack until it is done.


  2. Wow never looked at media that way before. Thanks for the insight.


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