Cyber-Nationalism: Fighting Wars Online


“No way man, the EU is waaaayyyy better than the USA!!!!”

Conflict amongst humans first arose on land. It quickly spread its way to sea. Several millenia later, it made it into the air above us thanks to the invention of the Wright Brothers. Less than a century after the successful takeoff at Kitty Hawk, conflict is being fought on the fourth frontier, the internet.

For those of us familiar with usenet back in the 1990s, warfare was being waged on all sorts of newsgroups as such soc.culture.israel and soc.culture.yugoslavia. Fast forward a few years and internet forums played host to conflicts not only current, but centuries old. The rise of web 2.0 has seen these battles move onto new battlefields, from YouTube to Facebook.

The Economist takes a look at this new battleground in: Cyber-nationalism – the brave new world of e-hatred.

A quick excerpt:

But e-arguments also led to hacking wars. Nobody is surprised to hear of Chinese assaults on American sites that promote the Tibetan cause; or of hacking contests between Serbs and Albanians, or Turks and Armenians. A darker development is the abuse of blogs, social networks, maps and video-sharing sites that make it easy to publish incendiary material and form hate groups. A study published in May by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human-rights group, found a 30% increase last year in the number of sites that foment hatred and violence; the total was around 8,000.

Social networks are particularly useful for self-organised nationalist communities that are decentralised and lack a clear structure. On Facebook alone one can join groups like “Belgium Doesn’t Exist”, “Abkhazia is not Georgia”, “Kosovo is Serbia” or “I Hate Pakistan”. Not all the news is bad; there are also groups for friendship between Greeks and Turks, or Israelis and Palestinians. But at the other extreme are niche networks, less well-known than Facebook, that unite the sort of extremists whose activities are restricted by many governments but hard to regulate when they go global. Podblanc, a sort of alternative YouTube for “white interests, white culture and white politics” offers plenty of material to keep a racist amused.

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