As casual and trivial as modern social networking may seem, as it pertains to the younger generations, Facebook and Twitter are more effective news sources than both CNN and Fox News combined. Think about it. When Bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, were most Americans under the age of 25 tuned into their news station because they would have been already? Personally, I turned on CNN when I found out; but I found out when I logged into my Facebook account to see hundreds of status updates saying “God bless America” and “Bin Laden is Dead!”I would suspect this happened for a number of people, regardless of age or generation.
If you can accept this basic premise, you will also likely agree that the impact the perspective the news is portrayed in can have on those reading or watching it. For instance, If a United States bomb kills a Al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, but also kills 2 innocent Afghan civilians in the process, you can see the vast difference in a tweet that says “US drone kills Al-Qaeda leader suspected of planning 9/11 Attacks,” and one that says “American’s target civilians again: Mother and Child killed in their home in Kabul.”
The significance: A recent CNN article states that US forces in Afghanistan feel they are losing the information battle against the Taliban. In short, while the former Afghan regime cannot provide running water, sufficient education, or any semblance of legitimate government to their Afghan constituency… they can tweet. (Look at this pro-Taliban twitter feed.)
As the article lays out, this information is readily available to many Afghans. It is not a news organization and therefore its content is not subject to any regulations based on validity or truthfulness. But people believe what they hear. As the level of US support in Afghanistan is already lacking, this does not bode well for the US coalition in a war-torn nation. You can say “but its only facebook and twitter” if you want, but then ask yourself how many times you use social networking vs the amount of times you watch the news.
As one US Colonel said, “Being able to reach out and inform a younger generation is a key. The younger generation here is one of the cornerstones to the future success of Afghanistan.” And so, the “Twitter War” will continue, as both the @Taliban and the @US Forces battle for more Afghan followers.