Writing in the Daily Telegraph, David Blair argues that “the 13 months of Syria’s revolt have starkly illustrated the limits of social media as an engine of revolution, and of the claims made for the Internet’s transformative power.”
He writes that linking up on Twitter makes activists today more vulnerable to the regime they’re fighting, than, say the Algerian insurgency was against the French in the late 1950s. The Algerian fighters had tight, person-to-person cells that were difficult to penetrate. “The whole point of these platforms is ease of access and use … they are inherently easy to penetrate. As such, social media is the exact opposite of a useful tool for a revolution. Had Twitter existed in the 1950s, perhaps Algeria would have stayed French for another decade or two.”
And it’s not just regimes like Syria that are interested in using Twitter as an intelligence tool.
Contest: can you find these faces in the crowd?
Oliver Belcher, a PHD candidate in geography at the University of British Columbia, writes at his Darpa Dreaming blog of recent innovations in using crowd-sourcing and social media as a form of intelligence gathering and surveillance. It’s of interest because as much as Twitter and Facebook have gained reputations as leveling tools for revolutionaries, they also can and are being used for spying and tracking the movements of people, at ever greater levels of sophistication.