Friday, February 12, 2010

Are Twitter Users Agents of US Cyber War?

In an interesting story in this morning's New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Jonathan Ansfield describe China's concern about cyber-security threats resulting from the omnipresence of western-based hardware and software among China's networked computing infrastructure. Because of this concern, the authors write, China has become "'absolutely the world leader' in development of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)—-the successor to the current Internet." China's leaders seem determined to free themselves from their current reliance on Western IT companies by developing a home-grown Internet infrastructure.

What was most striking about this article, however, was this take on the so-called Iranian Twitter revolution: "'How did the unrest after the Iranian elections come about?' People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, asked in a Jan. 24 editorial. 'It was because online warfare launched by America, via YouTube video and Twitter micro-blogging, spread rumors, created splits, stirred up and sowed discord.'" Where print, televisual, and networked media in the Western world celebrated the use of Twitter and YouTube as instances of grass-roots, anti-fascist cyber-democracy, China (and Iran) see these social media networks as weapons of online warfare launched by the US.

In my forthcoming book, I argue that in generating and proliferating pleasurable affects, social media networks encourage people to furnish all sorts of transactional data that help to vitalize our current securitization regime. From this perspective grass-roots netivism does something similar not only for US netizens but for those on the ground in other nations as well. And perhaps even more insidiously, does the promotion of an ideology of grass-roots socially networked activism among print, televisual, and networked media work to transform socially conscious users of Twitter and YouTube into unwitting agents of US cyber war? And how might this connect with the extensive premediation of cyber war under way at the current moment, particularly the February 16 "simulation" of an attack against the US by foreign sources?

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