Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Lori MacVittie, Andreas Grabner, Jim Kaskade, John Basso

Blog Feed Post

Social Media and Extremism: Sideshow or Center Stage?

By

CTOTerrorismblogOn Twitter, Mike Olson of Cloudera asked me and Alex Olesker what we thought about the use of social media in the latest dustup between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. He linked me to an article taking a broader look at the role of social media in terrorism and extremism. The following is some thoughts on how to think about the relationship of social media to social movements, extremist and benign. Tech audiences with a practical interest in tech and social movements can benefit from considering some theoretical perspectives not usually seen in most tech conversations.

2013 will likely see much more attention on information technology and social movements. In 2011, the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street spurred debate about the tactical applications of social media, not all of it productive. On one hand, there was a “gee whiz” tone to much of the coverage that ignored other important dynamics. In October, Thomas Frank wrote a biting article about how journalists and academics, infatuated with the idea that OWS represented a radically new (and superior) form of social movement, ignored the substantial and sometimes self-imposed barriers to its success. The same can probably be said of coverage of the Arab Spring, much of it based on a simplistic image of kids with MacBooks and iPhones toppling autocrats. On the other hand, Malcolm Gladwell and others denied the very real differences between social movements 1.0 and 2.0. Particularly useless was Gladwell’s presumption that analog-era activism was somehow more authentic and powerful than IT-mediated activism. So where to go from here?

First, social media can’t be analyzed with the presumption that social media is somehow separate from the overall web of social conflict. Rather, we should move forward with the assumption that we have one reality, composed of both organic and technological layers. Cyberspace is a sociotechnical system, which as CTOVision contributor Sean Lawson explains can be understood as follows:

[Sociotechnical systems] are large, complex systems in which the lines between the social and the technological, the human and the machine are increasingly blurry. As the passage implies, even something as seemingly simple as an airplane flying in the sky is actually just one part of a large sociotechnical system composed of various human and machine elements, from the pilot and airplane to a series of airports, communication and navigation systems, bureaucracies, regulations, rules and norms of flight, and more.

With the Arab Spring “twitter revolutions” we can see that human and machine elements and organizations all meaningfully combined to produce powerful and fundamentally emergent movements. Social media may not have been a primary cause but it also very much defined the realm of possibility for social action. Technology isn’t neutral, and certain technologies are more conducive to decentralized movements. Information age social networks have reduced transaction costs in a way earlier communications have not. There’s also a collaborative aspect that Alexis Madrigal covered in his post about the “APIs” of Occupy Wall Street.

The composition of sociotechnical systems also constantly shifts due to shifts in norms, regulations, rules, technological shifts, and bureaucratic hierarchies. Cyberspace may have some essential characteristics rooted in its function as a zone of machine-mediated communication, but it is also a designed environment with a constantly shifting landscape. Politics and networks of social capital are a part of that landscape, and this certainly includes extremist groups.

We can understand jihadi social media usage as being part of an overall assemblage of techniques, key personnel, and resources that constitutes a complex structure that can be tapped on by insurgents looking to advance their instrumental ends and communicate and discourse with an extended community of ideological fellow travelers. Israeli researcher Dima Adamsky argued in 2009 that, lacking the war colleges, doctrinal institutions, or military service journals of the West, jihadis debate theories of strategy evolve on web forums and zines. It’s still unclear how social media precisely fits into the radicalization process, despite the tendency of Western police departments to equate possession of jihadi media with radical intent. We’re on more solid ground in terms of tactical planning when we look at non-jihadi international social movements’ usage of twitter as a medium for directing protests and outsmarting police crowd control methods. Finally, there’s always the use of social media as a rapid-fire propaganda weapon that can influence external audiences and regulate and stimulate domestic audiences.

Police researcher John P. Sullivan has also written about how Mexican drug cartels have used social media to spread “narcocultura” in Mexican public life. When combined with coercive actions, narco-glorifying folk songs, provision of services, and murals, social media becomes a powerful means of making the violent image of the Mexican drug cartels part of everyday life. Jihadi groups have arguably not attained a similar level of cultural penetration, but Daveed Garteinstein-Ross and other counterterrorism experts have written about the ways in which jihadi culture–online and offline–can create a unique lifeworld for those who feel left out of secular culture.

Yet there’s a risk in looking at technology without the political and operational considerations. Terrorist organizations are clandestine in nature and practice tradecraft that limits their exposure to Western intelligence organizations. Thus assuming that covert networks function in the same way as social movements or Facebook friend groups is of limited utility. Taking down an extremist site is not equivalent to Second, there’s often a harmful tendency in tech analysis to place social media use as the dominant element of a social conflict. Reporters salivated over the IDF and Hamas Twitter-fighting each other and missed the centrality of actual combat to the outcome of the short Gaza conflict. At the end of the day, as Rear Admiral J.C. Wylie wrote, the “man on the scene with the gun” decides the war, not the kid with the iPhone.

A balanced understanding of the ways social media is vehicle for and a shaper of contentious political movements will be a net benefit to CTOs, tech reporters, and technologically-minded national security analysts. Watch this space for more on this subject in the future.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"At ROHA we develop an app called Catcha. It was developed after we spent a year meeting with, talking to, interacting with senior citizens watching them use their smartphones and talking to them about how they use their smartphones so we could get to know their smartphone behavior," explained Dave Woods, Chief Innovation Officer at ROHA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for ...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...