By Katina Michael, University of Wollongong

 

Believe what you see?

How can we be sure that what we are being fed on Twitter is a true and factual account?

 

If the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts of the Israeli Deputy Premier Silvan Shalom can be hacked and filled with pro-Palestine status updates then anything is really possible.

 

The central role being played by social media is not unique – and both states in this instance have had operational Twitter accounts for some time – but it does have interesting characteristics.

 

For one, it is not the citizens against the State, as was played out in the London Riots on August 6, 2011. No, this has been a conflict using social media between two states – and the citizens are its audience.

 

In the Vancouver Riots of June 15, 2011 there was an unprecedented amount of video footage and photographs taken by thousands of smartphone users in what has been termed crowdsourced sousveillance .

 

Each of these phones could corroborate the events of the riots in Vancouver but when a military puts up a single video link the evidence is questionable.

 

Third, in the London Riots – unlike the Israeli-Palestinian online war – rioters and the supporters of rioters mainly used Blackberry Messenger to make it more difficult for their activities to be traced via public spaces such as Twitter.

 

   

 

Data capture

What might the motivation be for launching a Twitter war in the first place? Any social media consultant will tell you that the spread of ideas from person to person can be captured with data mining techniques: everything from social network analysis (TwitterFriends), to who is following who and who is being followed (TweetStats), to content analysis-based searches on keywords (TwitterVenn) and hashtags, to a geodemographic analysis of Tweets over time for a given account (UberTwitter).

 

A whole range of applications are now freely available to conduct these comprehensive analytics. (In fact, I’ve taken the time to compile some statistics from these applications and you can see the results in this PowerPoint presentation.)

  

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.