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Local Governments and Social Media Warfare

The autonomy and power of local governments vary from country to country. Local governments in the United States generally include two tiers: counties, also known as boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana, and municipalities or cities/towns. In some states, counties are divided into townships. Municipalities can be structured in many ways, as defined by state constitutions, and are called, variously, townships, villages, boroughs, cities, or towns. Various kinds of districts also provide functions in local government outside county or municipal boundaries, such as school districts or fire protection districts.

Municipalities vary greatly in size, from the millions of residents of New York City and Los Angeles to the 200 people who live in Kimmswick, Missouri. Municipalities generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services (including public transportation), and public works (streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth). Whereas the federal government and state governments share power in countless ways, a local government must be granted power by the state. In general, mayors, city councils, and other governing bodies are directly elected by the people [15].

Local governments, like states, also have various levels of sophistication when it comes to digital government. Although each local government can participate in a variety of social media warfare tactics, including validation, influence, reinforcement, persuasion, recruitment and indoctrination, and relationship building, few do it well. It is generally the more populated cities with larger budgets that leverage social media tactics.

Again, much of the activity created by social cause movements and protest occurs in cities, and state and local governments are on the frontline of protecting or often harassing demonstrators and picketers. Unfortunately, at this level too there is a great deal of mistreatment of protesters by local authorities (as seen during protests in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager). These situations are explored more in-depth in Chapter 7.

Another area open to abuse at the local level is the monitoring of student social media activity by local education agencies. These agencies claim to focus social media monitoring efforts on security issues, but, in many cases, have used their monitoring to discriminate against young people who practice non-heterosexual lifestyles. School officials are seldom held accountable for privacy violations and their discriminatory practices, which are used to perpetuate dominance of the elite ruling classes.

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