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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
CNS Doesn't Understand Social Media Or Terrorism
Topic: CNSNews.com

Media Research Center employee Eric Scheiner writes in an Oct. 29 CNSNews.com article:

The government doesn’t treat all social media the same.

Claims of responsibility for the September 11th attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi by Ansar al-Sharia on Twitter and Facebook are still being investigated by officials. However, an anti-Islamic video posted on You Tube was blamed for stirring unrest almost immediately.

The anti-Islamic YouTube video made in the U.S. was linked to stirring Mid-East violence and criticized by the Obama Administration multiple times in the days following the attack. Even as late as Sept. 25th, President Barack Obama condemned the video is his address to the United Nations saying, “a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.”

Evidently, Facebook claims are investigated at a slower pace. Even though e-mails sent from a State Department address on Sept. 11th say the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack on Facebook and Twitter, administration officials are still investigating.

[...]

Perhaps the makers of the anti-Islamic video that was posted on You Tube should have loaded it on to Facebook instead? Then perhaps, they wouldn’t have been so quickly blamed.

Apparently Scheiner knows nothing about social media or terrorism.

A YouTube video is self-evident -- either the video is there or it's not -- and the video was undeniably being used to inflame passions across the Middle East.

On the other hand, a claim of responsibility for a terrorist attack -- whether or not it was on Facebook -- cannot be taken at face value. There is a length history of groups falsely claiming credit for such attacks in order to enhance their own terrorist cred. Former CIA military analyst Tara Maller states:

Claims such as these need to be corroborated. Sometimes multiple groups claim responsibility after attacks; obviously claims of responsibility are often false. It's also possible that the attackers had ties to multiple groups, or had different motives. Expecting policymakers to publicly examine and go through every conflicting piece of intelligence collected in the hours before and after an attack would be unreasonable and potentially even damaging to national security.

Further, as Mother Jones' Adam Serwer points out, the email Scheiner reference stating that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Behghazi attack on Facebook turns out to have been wrong. The group expressed its approval of the incident, but didn't actually take credit for it, although the group did imply some of its members might have been involved.

Which is why Secretary of State Hilllary Clinton said -- as Scheiner himself notes -- that  “Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence, and I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be.”

If Scheiner can't tell the difference between Facebook and YouTube -- as it appears he can't through his remark that the anti-Muslim video should've been posted on Facebook to avoid blame -- what is he even doing on the Internet?


Posted by Terry K. at 12:21 PM EDT

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