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Social Media And The Far-Right

Social Media As A Weapon In War

In contemporary conflict across the globe, we have seen an increase in propaganda online due to the impact that social media can have on society, but who is winning? The far-right have become successful online, and the head of GCHQ has warned that firms such as Facebook and Twitter are “in denial” about the use of their sites by “terrorists and criminals.” He goes on to acknowledge that extremists of all kinds have embraced the internet, and it is now their number one weapon to spread information and ideology.

propaganda online
Source: scpr.org
Social media has become a key component in ideological conflict as the battle for hearts and minds is just as crucial as physical warfare. The traditional indoctrination techniques are still popular, as the mass media still use fear tactics, as do the press, but for extremist groups attempting to create a buzz around their name, social media has become such a vital tool. Whatever is said on social media feels real. We have placed so much emphasis on digital communication that it has become the modern day news-station.

Anyone can now promote an idea through the internet, and can reach out to millions whilst doing so, and this makes the online world a priceless tool in the culture we are invested in. This is great for charities that try and get more people on board, and for campaigning groups who wish to inform the masses, but it also opens up opportunity for aggressive, violent groups. Social media in this case is perfect, as it presents an opportunity to spread conflict online. These groups can make their hateful campaigns seem very professional as the cost of producing high-quality videos is virtually nothing in the year 2014, and this can improve the impact of their propaganda.

The group known as Isil have been very successful in their use of social media thus far, and have used hashtags on Twitter in an attempt to generate internet traffic. Not only have they been adept at creating original hashtags that trend, but they have also hijacked other hashtags, such as those about the recent World Cup and the release of the iPhone 6. After hijacking these, they have then spread extremist propaganda to increase their popularity online. As popularity increased, they then started to post videos of battlefield footage and directed it against their enemies, and this has been a very successful social media strategy thus far.

propaganda online
Source: nypost.com
Our media will tell you that Isil have turned into a bunch of marketing geniuses, but in truth, what they are doing is pretty much standard practice in the world of social networking. Many advertising companies implement the techniques that this group have adopted, and in a way, Isil themselves are an advertising firm. They are creating an impression of an ideology that is probably over-inflated and designed to make you believe they are more powerful than they actually are. Whilst doing this, it is worth remembering that all their marketing is free, and it is all coming from the world’s mass media.

Of course, they are not the only ones doing this sort of thing. The UK’s far-right is even more impressive in their use of social media. They preach the same values, such as radicalism, brutality and threat to a nation by “outsiders,” and this creates panic in the public sphere. They create this panic whilst still being a very small, disjointed sub-section of politics, but they now have the influence of a main party purely because of their techniques online.

It is clear to see that social media has become a powerful weapon in the fight for ideological dominance, and this makes it as dangerous as it is good. The whole concept of warfare online has turned into one big game of high-stakes poker, where there is high emphasis on bluff and double-bluff, and it shows no signs of easing off as the battle of ideological conflict rages on.


Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Social Media And The Far-Right Reviewed by Alex Smith on Tuesday, November 04, 2014 Rating: 5
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