How Social Media is Altering the Nature of War

Social media is changing the social, cultural, and political structures. The traditional media outlets, including television and newspapers, follow strict standards and protocols, restricting information release to the public. Media monotony in the past meant that media channels played a central role in shaping society and furthering government agendas. Social media is disruptive and has changed how people disseminate and consume information. Social media is altering the nature of war in the 21st Century.

Social media has introduced new players in wars. Traditionally, wars were arranged and fought in the legislature and battlefields by lawmakers and military personnel. In the parliament, lawmakers would pass the bill to participate in a specific war or invade another country. After the bill passes in the legislature, the military would start to deploy for invasion. However, that is not the case anymore. Social media allows the general public to influence the government’s decision to participate or not participate in a war. The platform has transferred the power from major media companies and governments to individuals and groups.

Social media allows individuals to change the course of a war. In the current social media age, a single person, regardless of age, can change a course by providing a first-hand account of what is happening on the ground. A social media picture or video showing injustices committed by one side can create a global uproar, challenging citizens worldwide to persuade their governments to intervene in a conflict. Social media support and subsequent military intervention change the tide in a war, and an underdog player can reign supreme because of social media.

Social media is altering wars through propaganda. Governments, rebels, or separatist groups exploit social media to spread propaganda and lure the public into supporting them. Governments used mainstream media, especially national broadcasting corporations, to spread misinformation and gather people’s support. Even to date, certain governments control media outlets, and only a few broadcasters are permitted to report, allowing regimes to shape people’s views on national and international issues. Social media fuels propaganda by enabling regimes and authoritarians to reach a broad audience. Through social media propaganda, a country or group can commit injustices or enter a war without public questioning because people believe the battle is fought for the right reasons. Warring parties distort the truth and spread it on social media to prevent backlash or a negative global image.

Social media helps recruit fighters, swaying war balance. Social media is a recruitment tool, and war players use it to reach and attract sympathizers to fight or fund them. Terrorist organizations such as ISIS are known to manipulate people through social media, especially in the West, to join Holy War or finance terrorism. Although the use of social media as a recruitment tool is widespread among terror organizations, separatist groups or rebels utilize the platform to encourage people to join a fight against a dictator or oppressive government. A small rebel group can attract thousands of fighters through social media and receive millions of dollars in funding. Such developments alter war outcomes. Nowadays, a warring group that would have lost a war stands a chance to fight against the government and win due to social media.

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