The role of propaganda and censorship is not as obvious as it may seem. From the infamous propaganda arm of North Korean government to the state-run media organizations in China and Russia, it is clear that the mechanisms and effectiveness of propaganda and censorship vary widely. During the height of propaganda in the twentieth century, authoritarian governments were able to craft strong, singular national narratives by propagating political messages in popular media while censoring those that conflicted with the government’s line of thought. With the advent of the digital age, Russia and China have been forced to develop their propaganda strategy to combat the newfound power of the average internet user, who can seek and share information at the instant click of a mouse. While the basics of propagandistic strategy have persisted, fundamental changes have occurred as a response to the paradigm shift in information sharing and seeking.
On March 28, the ISN hosted a Roundtable Discussion on “Big Data, ICTs and Social Media in Times of Crisis,” which featured Mr Sanjana Hattotuwa, who is both a TED Fellow and a Special Advisor to the ICT4Peace Foundation. Our purpose today is to share Mr Hattotuwa’s lively presentation, which among other things focuses on how web- and mobile-based media have enhanced our ability to respond to complex emergencies, and to participate in ‘organic’ political processes. The presentation is then augmented by the question and answer session that followed in its wake.
Defence IQ has published a very interesting podcast on cybersecurity with Dr Nigel Inkster. He is the Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
The talk clarifies some important dimensions about the spectrum of activities from cybercrime to full blown cyberwarfare. The context of two major cybersecurity events, a cyber-attack in Georgia during the 2008 South Ossetia war and a 2009 attack in the UK on MI5 are considered.
The talk addresses the potential dimensions and impact of cyberwarfare (on military vs. civilian targets) For the most extreme forms of cyberwarfare, Dr Inkster notes, “…none of these attacks are going to be confined to the military domain, all of them are going to have a significant impact on civilian populations.” He further outlines areas of potential vulnerabilities to infrastructure.
The podcast ends with a consideration of the efforts that governments are making to develop defensive and offensive capabilities.
Defense IQ is a cyber security forum that provides military personnel and the defence community throughout the world with information regarding current military and defence issues. It offers focused content such as podcasts and presentations, and hosts webinars, conferences and summits on defense issues.
Please also check out our Special Report on cyberwarfare.
Recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed up on Twitter. I am sure that almost the whole IR community saw his appearance on the microblogging platform. Even though it was very surprising to see Chavez on what he used to call a “tool of terror” but now calls a “weapon that also needs to be used by the revolution,” no one took time to look thoroughly on what is going on on Chavez’s Twitter page.
The presence of Chavez on Twitter tells us the following facts about the Venezuelan’s president’s social media behavior:
- He uses a Blackberry.
- He’s following only five people: Diosdado Cabello R the Venezuelan secretary of Public Works and Housing, but also the country’s former interim president during the 47 hour-coup in 2002; Reflexiones de Fidel, the Cuban propaganda agency; his own political party PSUV; Tareck El Aissami, the newly appointed secretary of the popular power for justice whom father was the president of the Baathist party of Venezuela (and who, according to conspiracy theorists, has some ties with the Taliban); and Correo del Orinoco, the official press agency of the Venezuelan regime.
- He has a ‘populist’ approach even on Web 2.0. His first tweets greeted his new followers. He has also engaged in strong political debate with some of his followers, which makes his Twitter page look more like an open forum than a Twitter account. Only six of his latest 40 tweets are actually proper ‘tweets’ and not reactions or direct interactions with other users.
- His account is so popular that he has hired 200 “Twitter” specialists to manage it.
But if we look even closer the account, it is astonishing to see that he is interacting only with ‘new users’ or users that are only following him or other followers of Chavez. Plus these new users only interact with Chavez in a positive and eloquent way. A user even registered to warn him of a danger against his personal safety.
If we have this in mind and we are now aware that 200 specialists are there to ‘manage’ his Twitter account, it is realistic to assume that his team could be responsible for creating fake accounts and interacting with him in order to develop a positive and rather liberal approach of the use of Web2.0.
And if we quickly look at the numbers: 50,000 personal messages in 2 weeks mean that the specialists are handling approximately 17 messages per day. And I don’t believe that this is enough work for one person for one day.
So, Hugo Chavez on Twitter: Web 2.0 revolución or Venezuelan propaganda on a new platform?
The professors and researchers at the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS), an have just started a blog, PoliSciZurich.
“Our goal is to engage in a fresh exchange on research, teaching, and the academic profession by exploiting what makes political science in Zurich distinctive, namely a strongly research-oriented and international profile in a European location.”
Welcome to the blogosphere. Make yourselves at home!