JOHN GRIFF COLUMN: Social media just another tool for war propaganda

On a number of occasions in the past I’ve written of what many – including me – consider to be the Pandora’s Box effect of social media on society, writes John Griff.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:34 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:36 pm
Social media has been a lifeline for many refugees trying to keep in touch with friends and families, and for learning what is going on during the conflict in Ukraine... but not all the news online is accurate
Social media has been a lifeline for many refugees trying to keep in touch with friends and families, and for learning what is going on during the conflict in Ukraine... but not all the news online is accurate

I clearly recall the arrival of Facebook as a new medium for telling people what we and our friends had been up to, sharing stories, pictures and a lot more.

In those days, it came along to challenge Friends Reunited and wiped the carpet with it, paving the way to an explosion of 24/7 platforms which now dominate not only our free time, but increasingly our working time too. Today though, I hardly use it.

I will confess that my relationship with social media ebbs and flows.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Whole industries have sprung up in order to jump on an increasingly fast-moving bandwagon and now anyone who doesn’t fully engage with multiple platforms risks being seen to be left behind in a kind of social dark age.

Businesses, private broadcasters and ‘influencers’ are thrusting themselves forward ever more forcefully and perhaps with increasingly scant regard for the potential price they are paying in doing so.

But to what end for us? To be fully informed? Of what? To what degree? And by whom?

And who says that what they post is even factually correct?

Of course, right now the world’s gaze is universally focused on events taking place in Ukraine.

ICYMI: Zelensky, like his people, will refuse to be crushedA fortnight into the invasion by Russian forces, the acts we’ve all seen reported have both shocked and reviled those consuming them.

From official reporting there seems to be little by way of restraint in the acts perpetrated... and crucially, nobody knows the depths they will ultimately reach.

The rising concern of a far greater conflict beginning is uppermost in many minds.

But are we getting the authoritative picture?

Recently here, I referred to the Falklands conflict.

I vividly recall it being reported, but through the lenses of film cameras.

The film had to be flown from the front line to be chemically developed before it could be electronically transmitted back to the UK for editing and, finally, broadcast.

By the time it reached our screens, daily MoD radio updates had long since beaten the visual imagery to the audience.

The Gulf War was far more immediate.

I recall news anchors back in London urging colleagues embedded with the armed forces to take care as their reports were beamed live to our news-hungry eyes.

That was real as-it-happened reporting.

Now, it seems, anyone and everyone can be a reporter with nothing more than a smartphone to hand.

It also means that anyone’s images can be delivered to anyone watching, and packaged at will by their creator for his or her own purposes.

As such, the verification of events purporting to be ‘real’ on social media cannot easily be established. That, for me, is a real worry.

Imagery masquerading as truth has been spun many times into propaganda and it remains to be seen just how much unofficial footage has already been, or will be, released in the coming days to support whatever view is presented.

Go back through the history of conflict and, through whatever media, there has always been propagandist content... there always will be too.