Social media has an impact on U.S. Foreign policy in powerful and possibly troubling ways, wrote Eleonora Mattiacci, assistant professor of political science, in a recent piece for The Conversation.
In the piece she cited her paper for the British Journal of Political Science, written with the University of Mississippi’s Benjamin T. Jones, which found that during the 2011 Libyan civil war, social media helped convince other countries such the U.S. to intervene in favor of protesters.
“Twitter became a powerful instrument to air the rebels’ account of the conflict and present themselves to the international community as a viable – even preferable – alternative to [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi,” she wrote. “Even after we accounted for other factors, such as the behavior of the rebels toward Gadhafi and U.S. intelligence on the field, we found that the rebels’ tweets contributed to the U.S. becoming more cooperative with the rebels…despite the fact that President Barack Obama was reluctant to intervene at the outset of the conflict.”
Since then, social media has only grown stronger in global politics, such as in the case of Syria, where videos distributed via YouTube documenting a possible chemical attack on Syrian civilians moved President Trump to bypass Congress and authorize strikes in Syria.
“This raises the question of whether social media is rushing U.S. leaders to intervene with very little planning for what comes after,” she wrote.