Cyberwar PsyOps: e-Activism and Social Media

By now there is no question that the role of social media supporting the Egyptian protests has confirmed the value of social media in repressive countries. But how do corporations define rules of use which can keep them out of the crosshairs of groups like Anonymous?

As social media becomes more commonplace within corporate workspaces, CIOs have the tough job of working with HR to provide a safe framework in corporate policies on social media.

What exactly is the difference when both Anonymous, famous for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and other groups claim to merely be peaceful protestors?

Amnesty International Model for Social Media e-Activist

While in San Francisco this past weekend preparing a story about RSA, I happened to come across a Global Day of Action pro-Egyptian rally sponsored in part by Amnesty International (AI). In fact, Amnesty International has actively supported social media usage for several years.

AI defines online activism simply:

An Amnesty International e-activist is an individual who uses information and communication tools – such as mobile phones, blogs, emails or social networking sites – to act for human rights. He or she may also organize, mobilize and inspire online communities of individuals to take action for human rights.

Amnesty International and other nonprofits have been leveraging social media's benefits as early adopters of the technology.

Of particular interest is how they segment the task specialization with roles – such as events organizer, online ambassador, moderators and greeters – on social networking sites.

This can be contrasted with the use of DDoS toolkits, which have become in fashion after the #AnonOps and Anonymous attacks began in earnest supporting WikiLeaks.

Results: Ideas Trump Violence, Presence Trumps Speech

In most Islamic countries, blogging is highly regulated. If we look at the factors surrounding the Egyptian disconnection from the internet, it didn't result from DDoS attacks, it resulted from the media release of brutality in the streets by authorities against protesters. A great deal of media reports leveraged the 'man in the street' with a smartphone, as well as Twitter feeds dedicated to directing protesters in 'command and control' efforts.

Additionally, two #Feb12 San Francisco protestors in support of Egypt's changes filled me in about stateside e-Activists who worked hard to keep the morale and momentum of the call of regime change rolling.

Hager and Sara, two San Francisco protestors I interviewed, are also both part of the Linkster generation. Linksters can be defined as those people who have been born into the technology and have never known a world without social media.

Where GenX and GenY/Millenials adopted the technology (or are still wrestling with it), Linksters have always collaborated with their peers, always broadcast their emotions and opinions, and see the world as much more connected through the internet. My Linkster e-activists elaborated that their tool of choice in #Egypt was Facebook. Neither did any Twittering. Both were extremely concerned when Egypt's internet connectivity went down.

There will be a video of the protest interview available online within a few days.

Of particular note: both confirmed the role Egyptian women are playing in their country's technology is increasing on a huge scale, even if the Islamic culture does not yet recognize women in other social ways. This confirms the hypothesis written about back in Cyberwar PsyOps: Islamic suffrage and social media:

Simply put, internet technology cloaks the identity of the speaker and enhances the consideration of content over presenter. Even at the lowest levels of simply cooperating in Twitter posts, each woman who assists in these protests through the communication layer effectively frees up another [male] body for the more physical protests occurring in the streets. Because of this assistance, we may never know exactly how many women participate.

Bottom line: There is a major change going on within the Arab and Islamic world right now, and technology companies who realize that women are going to be taking a larger part in online communities will be ahead of the game.

BDA: Mubarek 0, Social Media and Linksters: 1

If we're grading by results in both #Tunisia and #Egypt, the pen indeed is mightier than the sword. The online 'pens' are being wielded by younger and younger people through social media. Women are playing a larger role than ever in Islamic technology companies. All of this is key to understanding global risk mitigation for a CIO.

Feb12Global Protest in San Francisco

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