Public outpourings on Twitter and Facebook can be all too easily manipulatedby David Patrikarakos / November 14, 2015 / Leave a comment
It’s happened again: another terrorist massacre; another spate of panic across Europe; and of course, another social media firestorm. The coordinated attacks across central Paris last night that murdered 128 people and left over 300 injured, 80 of them critically, has brought terrorism into the heart of Europe once more. Shortly after the attacks French President Francois Hollande went on national television to announce the closing of France’s borders and a national state of emergency for the first time in a decade.
Paris was aflame and so was Twitter. The attack, localised to a small geographical area, became an instant global news event—critically a rolling one. News reports, eyewitness accounts, images from the scene, even the Facebook posts of some of those taken hostage inside the theatre, all poured onto social media platforms. With their unrivalled power to aggregate and disseminate information in real time, they became the primary sources of information as events unfolded throughout a period of several hours. Traditional media couldn’t keep up.
In effect, two events happened last night: the first was a horrific attack on innocent people; the second was its distillation through global social media networks. The latter had several dominant strains, some of which had more to do with us than the attacks themselves.