The Importance of Social Media in Wartime Coverage

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In the age of social media everything seems to be accessible on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. With this ease it means the print media is unfortunately slowly dying out and we have seen the rise of news accessibility online.

Reuters Institute found that for 69% of under-35s, their main way of accessing news is through their smartphones. Given this, social media is one of the key ways that we access information about current war events. Not only this, but social media often has a less filtered, less biased output than news outlets tend to, making it an incredibly important component in wartime coverage.

Western news often doesn’t report on a lot of what is going on elsewhere in the world, and when they do it is usually brief and rarely demonstrates the true extent of the situation. In this case social media becomes incredibly useful in finding out what is going on in the world. It can be through following specific news accounts on Twitter or using the news apps to look at specific places. Through online media you can access news stations and papers from anywhere in the world that give a view we don’t see in the Western world.

Even Instagram can serve as an important way of seeing real-time updates. By following the accounts of people who are based in places with current conflicts, like Hong-Kong,  you can see the events as they happen through Instagram stories. And as I found out by following one account of someone who is in Hong Kong, the situation is even worse than I thought.

Not only is social media used by members of the public to access news, but for journalists it can be a vital way for them to find out key information. In a New York Times interview, Hwaida Saad said that she has previously joined ISIS Whatsapp groups that were vital in providing her with details to report on. Although Whatsapp eventually blocked her account for joining these groups, having been a part of them was key for her reporting.

Social media is even used by military groups to promote their aims. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF, or Tzahal as they’re known in Israel) use Twitter as propaganda. They give real-time information as well as using their social media platform to shape perceptions, give a legitimacy to their actions and make people more sympathetic towards them. By using social media in this way it gives a new ease for war-time propaganda to be spread across the world.

With social media so widely used it is understandable why and how it can be used in so many ways. Social media has completely reshaped the way we consume news. Where we once relied solely on newspapers, and later TV and radio broadcasts, we are now able to see what the news outlets leave out and where their biases lie. Simply from scrolling through Twitter you can find out more about what is going on in war-torn countries than we see news outlets reporting on.

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2019/2020 Travel Editor, third year English with psychology student with a love for travel and giraffes.

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