[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A very interesting, though worrying study about the influence of social media in areas that we don’t necessarily consider ‘social’, such as the political world, or even as warfare. The past few years especially (but not only) have led to quite important changes in how people use internet in general and social media in particular, with the advent of giants such as Facebook, and other easy access platforms like Twitter.
As much as I stand for a ‘free’ Internet (I’m a child of the 90s, after all, and my first experiences of the web have forever influenced my views of it, for better and for worse), the authors make up for valid points when it comes to listing abuses and excesses. The use of internet as a tool for war is not new, as evidenced by the examples of the Zapatistas in 1994, or the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011; but the latter quickly turned sour, as some governments, quick to respond, turned the same weapons of freedom into tools of control and oppression. These are the same tools and the same internet we know, but with a much different outcome.
The 2016 US elections are, of course, one of the other examples in this book, one that shows how social media, through sock-puppet accounts, can be used to influence people. The hopeful part in me keeps thinking that ‘people can’t be so stupid’, but the realistic part does acknowledge that, here too, the authors make very valid points. The rational seldom becomes viral, and what gets shared time and again is all the provoking matter (not in a good meaning of this word), the one that calls to base emotions and quick response (again, not in a good way). I kept remembering what I try to practice: “if tempted to post a scathing comment on internet, stop and wait to see if you still want to do that later” (usually, the answer is ‘no’). And so we should also be careful of how we react to what we see on social networks.
Conclusion: 4.5 stars. Kind of alarmist in parts, but in a cold-headed way, one that could have a chance of making people think and reflect on online behaviours, and perhaps, just perhaps, remain cold-headed in the future as well.