Nav: Home

Using social media to weaken the wrath of terror attacks

November 14, 2018

Governments and police forces around the world need to beware of the harm caused by mass and social media following terror events. In a new report, leading counter-terrorism experts from around the world - including Michigan State University faculty - offer guidance to authorities to better manage the impacts of terror attacks by harnessing media communication.

"With social media, not only is the information immediate, but the public's access to information and conversations shape how an event is talked about," said Steven Chermak, MSU professor of criminal justice report contributor. "This can be dangerous when we can't discern fact from a panicked reaction."

The report, Minutes to Months, or M2M, assessed terror attacks in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, with expertise from MSU, Western University in Canada, University of New South Wales, Sydney, and was spearheaded by Cardiff University's Crime and Security Research Institute, or CSRI.

By reviewing all the published research on the role of media and social media in the wake of terror attacks, together with detailed case studies of specific incidents, M2M reveals insights on how media and social media coverage can increase the public harms of terrorism, and what works to mitigate such effects.

The M2M report provides recommendations to help authorities develop and execute strategies to manage the online fallout from a terrorist incident. The work was commissioned by the Five Country Ministerial Countering Extremism Working Group, which includes the governments of the UK, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The research team found that terrorist attacks create shockwaves after the initial incident, as a wide range of voices compete through mainstream and social media. In fact, M2M found that communications after a terrorist incident often lead to a spike in hate crimes, extremism, and prompt damaging disinformation and rumors.

"People only know what they see or read, so the immediate panic social media - and then on the news - perpetuates rumors and creates fear. This is exactly what terrorists want," Chermak said. "The ongoing news in the days and weeks following attacks - and opinions and emotions through media - can continue the terror cycle."

Governments, police and others involved in public safety need to be ready to offer accurate, regular information to minimise negative fallout, the researchers said.

Terrorist violence, as the report explained, is intended to elicit intense and vivid reactions. Thus, by neglecting how to manage post-event situations is a current weak point in many governmental counter-terrorism frameworks.

The increasing volume of communication channels allows different groups to voice alternative interpretations of the same event, causing multiple narratives and accounts circulating in the post-event environment.

Martin Innes, director of the CSRI and lead author of M2M, recently issued a report that identified the systematic use of fake social media accounts spreading disinformation. The accounts, linked to Russia, amplified the public impacts of the four terrorist attacks that took place in the UK in 2017: Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

"Over the past five years or so, both the mechanics and dynamics of terrorism and how it is reported via media sources, have altered dramatically," Innes said. "Over the same period, the logics of media and the information environment have been fundamentally transformed."

Because of these changes Innes believes that changing communication is the key to the post-attack wake of terror.

"Taking a pragmatic view, that despite the best efforts of police and security services, not all future plots will be prevented, developing an understanding of how any harms can be mitigated is an important undertaking."
-end-
This report was made available to funders and internal stakeholders in July 2018 before it was published to the public on October 24, 2018.

Michigan State University

Related Social Media Articles:

STD crowd-diagnosis requests on social media
Online postings seeking information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the social media website Reddit were analyzed to see how often requests were made for a crowd-diagnosis and whether the requested diagnosis was for a second opinion after seeing a health care professional.
Cynical social media voices can erode trust in news media
Amid rising concerns about low public trust in mainstream media institutions, a Rutgers study found that real-life and online social interactions can strongly influence a person's trust in newspaper, TV and online journalism -- but when it comes to online interactions, cynical views are the most influential.
Social media use by adolescents linked to internalizing behaviors
A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report high levels of internalizing behaviors compared to adolescents who do not use social media at all.
Social media stress can lead to social media addiction
Social network users risk becoming more and more addicted to social media platforms even as they experience stress from their use.
Many post on social media under the influence of drugs -- and regret it
Posting on social media, texting, and appearing in photos while high is prevalent among people who use drugs--and many regret these behaviors, according to a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
'Fake news,' diminishing media trust and the role of social media
Exploring the perception of the 'fake news' phenomenon is critical to combating the ongoing global erosion of trust in the media according to a study co-authored by a University of Houston researcher.
How gender inequality is reproduced on social media
Researchers from Higher School of Economics analyzed 62 million public posts on the most popular Russian social networking site VK and found that both men and women mention sons more often than daughters.
Social media privacy is in the hands of a few friends
New research has revealed that people's behavior is predictable from the social media data of as few as eight or nine of their friends.
Excessive social media use is comparable to drug addiction
Bad decision-making is a trait oftentimes associated with drug addicts and pathological gamblers, but what about people who excessively use social media?
Negative social media behaviors may be associated with depression in millennials
Certain social media factors were linked with major depressive disorder (MDD) in a Journal of Applied Biobehavioural Research study of millennials.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.