Mayumi Matsushita: Social Networks and Terrorism


Link to Mayumi Matsushita’s Linked In profile

I am pleased to host another student guest post, this time by Mayumi Matsushita. This is the 24th student guest post this semester. You can see all the student guest posts from my “Monetary and Financial Theory” class at this link.

The recent Paris attacks made us shocked everyone on one time at 13 November 2015. Not only Parisians but also people who live in different countries could share their alarm on social networks. People might have noticed unusual notifications appeared on Facebook: friends name live in Paris was marked safe, which Facebook introduced last year inspired by an employee project built in the wake of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. Other Social Networks like Twitter and Google showed their powers. On Twitter, Parisians used the hashtag #PorteOuverte—or open door in French—to offer shelter to stranded visitors. Google was making international calls to France from its Hangouts mobile communication app free through the weekend, so people could check on the status of friends and relatives. Actually, for me, using Twitter was the best way to gauge the real-time information about the attack. Changing the number of dead people made me connected directly with Parisians. So totally I found the power of Social Networks in the Paris attack. Moreover, after the attack, Social networks intended to protect us from terrorism by using their powers more aggressively. Facebook started to remove a profile page used by one of two people suspected of killing 14 people the previous day in San Bernardino, Calif. Facebook said it has hundreds of people on its community operations team, which vets content reported by users from four offices worldwide, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, there is a limit to completely and fairly protect from terrorism and, for this reason, there is a fact that social network systems have supported indirectly to create the terrorism. The volume of information on Social Networks is huge and we might not judge all of the contents and remove the dangerous ones completely. If we strengthen the regulation for the contents directly, the possibility of making another kind of discrimination would increase and the merits of Social Networks like easily sharing information and connecting with people would disappear. This dilemma has indirectly supported the terrorism, unfortunately. Because of cost-free registration and free speech, there are a lot of supporters of ISIS on Twitter (see the graph below). This data shows  how the terror group extends its presence across social media, which is both alarming and a sign of our digital era. ISIS uses Social networks as one strategy to recruit supporters globally. This is one of the reasons why they would upload sensational announcements and videos on the net. They would get big attention from potential supporters, using the social networks as the recruit or commercial advertisements.

So we should understand the good and downside of social networks. It can protect us from terrorism but also promote it by connecting individuals and creating an information bias easily. It has a huge power to connect and gather people and information in a single direction from both good and bad aspects. To make well-balanced decisions, we should continue to try to control this power for the right direction as possible and keep in mind that we always face the risks to be agitated by information bias.