The Internet and social media are in early stages of development in Belarus. The lack of infrastructure and the cost of access mean that the online community is characterized by affluent, educated middle classes from the metropolitan areas of the country (especially Minsk). Internet in Belarus has not yet achieved the penetration necessary to be socially representative. Despite the accessibility challenges, social media are still proving popular, particularly amongst younger demographics. Online information sources and especially social media, promise an impartiality that is often lacking in Belarusian mass media channels, which many consider to be overly influenced by the national government. From a political point of view, this has meant that opposition parties have been swifter to experiment with online engagement to gain public support, although their use of social media as strategic tool for campaigning is still relatively experimental.
The social media landscape in Spain is relatively mature since reading blogs and engaging on social networks is now a regular part of daily life for many people, particularly teenagers and young professional people. As in most other European countries, social media participation is higher in large cities, especially Madrid which is seen as the center of the technology and Web 2.0 industry in Spain (64.3% of households have Internet access). Social networking is the most popular social activity in Spain. Until recently the local platform Tuenti had the highest membership although the global platform Facebook has now usurped that with 100,000 more members (5.7 million total) and levels of traffic to rival Google.
Latvia, one of the three Baltic states, has a diverse population totaling 2.3 million – 59% Latvians, 29% Russian nationals and 3.8% Belo Russians amongst other ethnic groups. The media industry reflects this and is divided into Latvian or Russian language outlets and broadcasters. Internet penetration in the country currently stands at 59% which is just below the EU average (60%). However, significant growth centered particularly around the capital Riga and amongst Latvia’s youth demographic shows the signs of increasingly widespread digital inclusion and Internet literacy. Social media is still in the early stages of development, focused primarily on local social networks such as Draugiem, although globally popular platforms including Twitter and Facebook are growing in Latvian members. Commercial engagement with social media reflects this growing trend and is led primarily by telecommunication companies such as IZZI and Lattlecom. The Latvian government is also beginning to embrace social media as part of its communications strategy although its current presence is largely passive with an emphasis on broadcast rather than engagement.
The Internet and social media are in a relatively advanced stage of development in France. Penetration rates are higher than the European average, although France is still trailing behind the European leaders in terms of social media sophistication. Social media is very popular amongst French Internet users, with six social media sites in the top 20 most visited websites in France. Social networking and video-sharing are the most popular social media activities in France. Blogging, on the other hand, is comparatively less engaged with indicating the behavior of the French online is more fast-paced with less emphasis on long form communication. French Internet users tend to use the French language in online communication and social media. As a result, micro-blogging platform Twitter has grown in popularity since a French version was introduced.
Improvements in infrastructure and access in Hungary over the last decade have encouraged considerable increases in Internet access and with that, an exploration of social media. Currently, Internet access is just below the EU average but is heavily focused around Budapest and other large cities, while the rural population remains largely digitally excluded. That said, government-backed initiatives to improve access in rural areas are ongoing. Internet access is also greater amongst those with a higher education and / or employed in the service industries. In turn, a gender divide is also apparent in Hungary’s Internet access as a result of lower levels of employment amongst women. The 15-24 age group and students are leading the digital movement in Hungary, aided by government initiatives which have focused on providing IT education and equipment to schools. It is this demographic that is largely responsible for the popularity of social networking, primarily conducted on local platforms in the Hungarian language, although membership of the global platform Facebook is growing and highlights a desire to be part of the global social media conversation.
A small but growing number of bloggers who appear to be writing from Cuba are using externally hosted websites to voice dissent and developing inventive ways to circumvent government restrictions on Internet access that limit their freedom to post. While the blogs’ emergence has coincided with the move toward more openness in state media about discussing social and economic problems in the past two years, the bloggers go well beyond that limited criticism by blaming the ruling system rather than individuals or external pressure. The government thus far largely has acted indirectly against the bloggers, warning about the dangers of the Internet and reportedly blocking access to a host website. The bloggers tend to express pessimism about prospects for change under Raul Castro, but they currently are not promoting a specific political agenda or calling for any organized movement against the government. Although readership is mostly international, their on-island audience — including possible imitators — is likely to increase if access to information technology becomes more widespread. See the appendices for details on Internet access in Cuba and the individual blogs discussed.
Social broadcasting — posting or sending audio and video content to members of a social network — allows people to share multimedia material using Internet-based technologies. In Germany, OSC has observed that major political parties — hesitant to campaign on the Internet for fear of losing control over their messages — have nevertheless begun to use Internet social networks and video portals as a communication tool. New smaller parties without an established financial or voter base also appear to prioritize Internet-based campaigning. For example, Germany’s Pirate Party won a better-than-expected 2% in the 2009 national election primarily through making use of Internet-based communications.
The blogs selected and profiled in this guide are, at the time of this report, among the most well-known German-language political blogs and were selected for inclusion based on an assessment of several indicators, which are detailed in the methodology statement. The blogs profiled here are among Germany’s most influential independent political blogs and therefore have some potential to shape public opinion and debate on political issues in Germany. However, it should be noted that, given the challenges in establishing linkage between online content and realworld interactions and events, the degree of influence of blogs is difficult to quantify.
As the Moroccan regime has cracked down recently on traditional media, the increased availability of high-speed Internet and Internet-enabled mobile devices has allowed Moroccans to take otherwise unreportable stories and grievances online. So far, the government has been relatively hands-off with regard to Internet content, though a few cases directly involving the royal family have resulted in arrests and trials. As social media use becomes more widespread and available within Morocco, the monarchy risks reaching a tipping point beyond which only draconian filtering would enable it to control the media message, a step it seems unlikely to take given its sensitivities regarding its international image.
Popular Saudi blogger Fu’ad al-Farhan has returned to blogging after over two years of silence following his imprisonment in 2007. On 12 May, he started a blog on a new domain located at www.alfarhan.ws. Al-Farhan — who holds a degree from a US university, writes from within Saudi Arabia, and is an outspoken proponent of political reform in the Kingdom — began with a post titled “Blogging… the Best Option,” which explores the pros and cons of blogging and social networking. The blog discusses the prospects for reform and freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia and encourages debate on related issues. Al-Farhan’s posts have evoked lively responses from Saudi readers, suggesting that his blog resonates with those Saudis who are eager to exchange views on a variety of sensitive political and social issues. Al-Farhan takes an optimistic view of King Abdallah’s reform efforts, prompting some other bloggers to call him unrealistic.
A small group of independent bloggers, including Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and Claudia Cadelo, has promoted blogging as a vehicle for free expression and information sharing to circumvent Cuba’s tightly controlled media environment, and to communicate with the outside world. They have become increasingly confrontational toward the government, demanding greater civil liberties and criticizing many government policies . Other on-island bloggers — many of them journalists or university professors and students — have called on the government to be more open and allow greater access to outside information, but they generally have avoided direct criticism of it. The government response has been limited to date, but the increasingly antigovernment line of some bloggers is likely to test the limits of government tolerance.
Against the backdrop of widespread international criticism and muted senior official comment regarding Israel’s actions in the Free Gaza flotilla raid, the IDF and some ministries, as well as individual volunteers, turned to social media to counter bad publicity over the incident. While IDF YouTube videos apparently succeeded in attracting attention to Israel’s message, the government’s overall social networking effort appears to have been hastily and clumsily organized compared to a more effective effort at the time of the Gaza incursion from December 2008 to January 2009. Several prominent commentators rebuked the government for what they perceived as a tardy and unprofessional public diplomacy campaign during the incident.
This guide provides Air Force Public Affairs professionals with basic social media knowledge needed to maneuver in the online information space and the basic-level tactics explained here should be used to compliment the traditional forms of Public Affairs, to include internal communication, community relations and media relations.
Marines are personally responsible for all content they publish on social networking sites, blogs, or other websites. In addition to ensuring Marine Corps content is accurate and appropriate, Marines also must be thoughtful about the non-Marine related content they post, since the lines between a Marine’s personal and professional life often blur in the online space. Marines must be acutely aware that they lose control over content they post on the Internet and that many social media sites have policies that give these sites ownership of all content and information posted or stored on those systems. Thus Marines should use their best judgment at all times and keep in mind how the content of their posts will reflect upon themselves, their unit, and the Marine Corps.
The following report is a fictitious account of how a young person in America could become a suicide bomber for an Islamic extremist group. It is the fifth in a series of reports on Web 2.0 technology and future urban warfare. All references to people, groups, and products are intended for illustrative purposes only. As such, the authors do not suggest that any of the products or organizations listed condone or support extremist activities.
•(U) Main sites engaged:
–Arabic Facebook page launched