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Attacks in Paris - the role of Social Media

Monday 16 November 2015, by SIGNIS

New York, Brussels, November 16th, 2015 (Forbes.com/SIGNIS/ Federico Guerrini), The American website forbes.com is a leading Internet medium which published an interesting article by its journalist Federico Guerrini on Social Media in the light of the Paris attacks on Friday Nov 13th.

He started his story with a reflection on the “Charlie Hebdo attack” last January and the reaction of the French government which advocated new legislation to stop the use of social networks as hate-speech vehicles by ISIL supporters, who were also using those platforms to coordinate their terrorist acts.

Further he pointed out that Harlem Desir, State Secretary for European Affairs, proposed an international legal framework that would make Facebook and Twitter share responsibility when used to spread messages promoting violence. “But the attacks which ravaged the French capital [Friday] showed how social media can also play a much more positive role. Facebook activated its Safety Check tool; introduced in October 2014, to help people in areas affected by a disaster let their Facebook friends know they are safe. Twitter was also helpful: residents used the hashtag #porteouverte to offer shelter to people stranded in the city. Another important hashtag, #rechercheParis, is being used to search for missing loved ones last seen near attack sites.” Guerrini said.


Guerrini found out that #ParisAttacks and #FranceUnderAttack were spreading information and updates about the attacks, while #PrayForParis gathers messages of solidarity and support for the victims and their fellow citizens.
But there’s also a darker side to social media he wished to underline: “when a disaster strikes, it can easily become a source of disinformation. As BBC journalist Dave Lee notes, it’s difficult, in the midst of confusion, to distinguish false rumours from news. When a refugee camp in Calais was set on fire, for example, someone tweeted it was done in revenge, while it most likely was just due to an electrical fire”.

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