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Is the Social Network Mightier than the Sword?

By Hersch

With the advent of the internet, the social response time to mass communication has been radically reduced. This has made possible new social phenomena, as large numbers of people can quickly coordinate their activity in response to a particular set of circumstances. An early example of such phenomena was the “flash mob.” Because of the speed at which these sorts of events transpire, there is not much time for calm reflection, and so a sort of herd (or stampede) impulse comes into play. The political utility of social media was recognized early on, and it was discovered that for a relatively modest investment in infrastructure, one could achieve major political effects. For example, it has been suggested that a few organizations with deep pockets exploited social media to produce the Color Revolutions in former Soviet bloc nations.

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As Wikipedia emerged as the social networking site with the most Google juice, it became a magnet for propagandists of all varieties. This is despite the fact that Wikipedia has a policy called WP:NOTSOAPBOX, which states that “Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a battleground, or a vehicle for propaganda,” making this one of Wikipedia’s most widely ignored policies. Teams of contestants at Wikipedia use other social media to coordinate their activities and win content disputes, so as to skew Wikipedia article content toward their preferred ideological biases (see “How to control a topic”.) Of course, the way the Wikipedia game is played, all content is supposed to be cited to Reliable Sources. For rapidly-developing current events, there are no scholarly, peer-reviewed sources available. These things take time. Therefore, the only option which remains is to use the news media.

There were two noteworthy articles that recently appeared: “Media bias a problem in

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