Just a quick pointer to to my latest piece for Spinwatch, Web 2.0 Warfare from Gaza to Iran. It's a story I'm slightly ambivalent in one sense, because there has clearly been important information coming out of Iran on Twitter. There have also been a lot of poorly sourced rumours, of which perhaps the most suspicious is the one cited by Robert Fisk, that the Iranian government is using Hamas and Hezbollah operatives to suppress the demonstrators.
If my story comes across as slightly sceptical about social media, I hope that the links to SpinProfiles and Neocon Europe show some of the potential for using the technology in a more considered way. Indeed, I think there is potential for wikis like these to develop a symbiotic relationship with blogs and social networks, providing a more structure long-term memory for the blogosphere.
Over at the Yorkshire Ranter, Alex Harrowell comments on the ongoing story of Glen Jenvey, who featured as an anti-terrorist 'expert' in a Sun story about threats, which it now appears he posted himself, against public figures on a Muslim web forum.
It's a very good question just how many terrorism stories (especially ones that have the "Internet" flag set - it means "stuff I don't understand" to a lot of editors) are the work of these people, whether the upscale, Decent version or Jenvey's Comedy Gladio.
That put me in mind of a quote from former Pentagon Neocon Abram Shulsky:
Soviet front groups might have been more effective, but Stalinist paranoia made impossible the operational autonomy needed to succeed. To the extent that future practitioners of this type of propaganda have learned lessons from the Soviet experience, we may expect that the nonstate groups will be controlled in a more sophisticated manner and their ties to a given state will be less obvious.
New methods of spreading propaganda (such as via Internet web sites of Non-governmental organizations [NGOs], or specialized email lists) allow a deceiver to reach target audiences via multiple channels. Many of these channels may remain relatively invisible to the public at large. (Elements of Strategic Denial and Deception by Abram Shulsky in Strategic Denial and Deception: The Twenty-First Century Challenge, edited by Roy Godson and James J. Wirtz, Transaction books, 2002, p23.)
Shulsky went on to note that "Despite the media's self-image of hardheaded cynicism, it is relatively vulnerable to this type of manipulation." (p24.) The Sun's experience would seem to bear this out.