On SAGE Insight: How Social Media Is Changing Conflict

From Journal of Conflict Resolution

Social media increasingly plays a role in conflict and contentious politics. Politicians, leaders, insurgents, and protestors all have used it as a tool for communication. Western countries are particularly concerned about ISIS’s slick use of propaganda and social media to recruit followers and inspire attacks in the West. Donald Trump in his campaign to become USA President credited his use of the social media platform, Twitter, with providing a way that he could “fight back” against “unfair” stories, and that it helped “get the word out” to his supporters.

The author in this paper provides a framework for understanding social media’s influence on conflict through four interrelated points: (1) social media reduces the costs of communication, (2) it increases the speed and dissemination of information, (3) scholars should focus on the strategic interaction and competitive adaption of actors in response to communication technology changes, and (4) the new data that social media provides are not only an important resource, but also fundamentally change the information available to conflict actors, thereby shaping the conflict itself.

Abstract

Social media increasingly plays a role in conflict and contentious politics. Politicians, leaders, insurgents, and protestors all have used it as a tool for communication. At  the same time, scholars have turned to social media as a source of new data on conflict. I provide a framework for understanding social media’s influence on conflict through four interrelated points: (1) social media reduces the costs of communication, (2) it increases the speed and dissemination of information, (3) scholars should focus on the strategic interaction and competitive adaption of actors in response to communication technology changes, and (4) the new data that social media provides are not only an important resource, but also fundamentally change the information available to conflict actors, thereby shaping the conflict itself. In sum, social media’s influence on conflict defies simplistic explanations that argue that it privileges incumbents or challengers.

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Article details
How Social Media Is Changing Conflict
Thomas Zeitzoff
First Published August 4, 2017
From Journal of Conflict Resolution
DOI: 10.1177/0022002717721392

 

 

     
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