Iraq reveals danger of false truths spread via social media
Blog at the Democrat and Chronicle
Posted by David M. Grome • July 24, 2013
This morning, NPR’s Kelly McEvers reported on rising tensions in Iraq — specifically via social media — as a result of the Syrian conflict.
In Iraq, social media has devolved from what has been portrayed as a liberating hero of movements, such as the Arab Spring, into a more divisive and deceptive medium akin to “Plato’s digital cave” with false shadows that deepen sectarian divides.
Professor Marwan Kraidy, an expert in Arab media and politics at the Annenburg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania says of the digital cave, “I think what we’re finding out now… [social media] has the potential to be a vicious instrument for very, very, very ugly speech.”
Kraidy suggests, “To really know what’s going on here in the region, you need to come out of the digital cave, step away from the biased TV channels, and verify the news for yourself.”
If we are honest with ourselves, this story from abroad resembles a situation that is more familiar than foreign.
This should not, however, dissuade us from fostering positive, intelligent dialogues on the Internet here at home. In fact, Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a professor at Princeton University and contributor to Huffington Post, urges the exact opposite. Last year, during a guest lecture at Chautauqua Institution he said,
“The question that each of us needs to ask is how we are taking part in this conversation. How we — all of you — can be a part of the force that bends the Internet away from the curse and towards the blessing.”