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Social Media Warfare Participants

The dynamics that drive social media warfare are rooted in the conflict inherent between social institutions, governments, corporations, and groups or individuals that are willing to stage an insurgency or protest the social structures and norms that they feel have oppressed them. But social media warfare has also flooded the political electoral process and social change movements of all types.

There is much debate over the definition of warfare applied to conflicts facilitated or supported by social media. This analysis uses the term warfare because the conflicts have gone beyond discourse and debate. Organizations and individuals that participate in social media warfare are intent on harming their opponents in some way and doing so without mercy. These initiating participants do not care about the consequences of their rhetoric, actions, or goals on the world around them. They only want to prevail in achieving dominance in the social realm. The past platforms of discourse and debate that served as a foundation for civil society have deteriorated into a primordial chaos of survival of the fittest. Decorum and civility have been abandoned along the way.

The participants in social media warfare were not created by the Internet or by social media; they have long been there using other means to threaten social order. They have a history of being self-serving and narcissistic; social media has just provided them with a new weapon to instantaneously level their wrath against opponents. In some cases, organizations and individuals are indeed victims of attacks by their opponents and respond by working to neutralize the impact of an attack or to do their opponents as much harm as possible in return. In other cases, participants in social media warfare have viciously attacked their opponents with the desire to do them as much harm as possible to meet short-term goals in long struggles for dominance.

When conflict between organizations, social groups, and individuals has been long-standing and not borne out of social media, the frustration of not gaining dominance by other means has led to participants turning to social media warfare to eventually win their way. The swift pace for attack that social media provides opponents has often resulted in serious backlash; it has actually caused attackers more harm than it has helped them achieve success. Social media is there for all to see and it quickly exposes ill-chosen words to a world that would otherwise not bear witness. Organizations, groups, and individuals that can benefit or be harmed by social media warfare are shown in Table 1.1.

The structure of an organization, its size, purpose, and relationships with other organizations influences how social media warfare strategies are selected and what tactics are employed leading to or during conflict situations. As discussed earlier, this is the age of irregular and unconventional warfare, where strategies must be fluid and adaptable including in and through cyberspace.

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