Social Web/Government


With the advent of Web 2.0 and especially the social web, democracy has reached the internet. Where before a few companies owned all the information, controlled all the access, and the primary medium was broadcast, this has changed. But even more, not only has the idea of democratization reached the internet, also, the ideas of the social web start to have an influence on democracy. The Social Web especially social networks are a helpful medium to publish information about the government and a very good service. These mediums gives also a very good possibility to communicate and interact with the world. Most of the Parties today use social web or social networks. With these mediums they can quickly inform people about new information. But the Citizen are afraid because of their privacy. Maybe the privacy is not protect enough. With the Social Web and social network people easily cast a shadow on a party. Good but also bad news can easy spread like the wind. On side of the government there is a high effort because of the security.


Of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial) the fourth one, namely free press has established itself firmly in the internet. After a long struggle, blogging has become a valid form of journalism. Now if even we in the ’Free West’ have trouble recognizing bloggers as journalists (mostly out of economic interests), we can imagine that less free societies have even more issues with them. The Committee to Protect Journalists [1] also fights for the rights of bloggers.

Citizen journalismEdit

If you look in the dictionary for the definition of citizen journalism, you should see a picture of Dan Gillmore. Gillmore wrote the first blog at a newspaper website. He also wrote the book 'We the Media' on the subject of grassroots media and now he runs the Center for Citizen Media, a joint project of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkely and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.

Although these acts don't go beyond simple observation at the scene of an important event, they might be considered acts of journalism. The average citizen can now make news and distribute it globally, thanks to the wide spreading of so many tools for capturing live events. An act that was once reserved for established journalists and media companies.

According to Jay Rosen, citizen journalists are "the people formerly known as the audience," who "were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all. ... The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable."[2]


Citizen journalist often get accused of not being objective enough, they get blamed by traditional media institutions of abandoning the goal of 'objectivity'.

An article published in 2005 also revealed that many citizen journalism sites are lacking quality and content.

David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter criticized the concept of citizen journalism: "I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training or for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom it is they are lying to." [3]

Though citizen journalists often receive criticism about the accuracy of their reporting, the fact remains, that these journalists can report in real time and are not subjected to oversight. That way it played an immense role in the uprisings of the Arab Spring. The use of mobile technology by citizen journalists during the 2011 Egyptian revolution caused the government to briefly terminate cellular and Internet services. Occupy protest were also influenced by live interactive media coverage through citizen journalists.


Direct Democracy parties are trying to establish themselves in the legislature and give the decisions to their party base. These Direct Democracy Parties have found the Internet as a medium too.

E2D - Electronic Direct DemocracyEdit

Electronic Direct Democracy is a movement of parties in some countries, aiming for direct influence of the voters/party members on every law. The party members elected in legislature should vote as the base of the party has decided in an online voting. Also the party members have the possibility to propose new laws, first to the community and later in the legislature.
The E2D-International is a union of parties, with a political manifest to install direct democracy with the help of the internet.
Countries with E2D-Parties[4]:

Country Party(Website)
Vallentuna, Sewden


With the upcoming of the social web, the criminals found ways how to use it for their purposes, but the executive is catching up. Law enforcement uses the content in social networks to investigate crimes and predict crimes.

Law enforcement - social monitoringEdit

Social monitoring means observing the social network contents and searching for crimes. Two methods are used for monitoring: OSINT - Open Source Intelligence / SOCMINT - Social Media intelligence

OSINT collects systematically free available information, which is automatically pre searched, same goes for SOCMINT which is (mostly) included by OSINT. The derived data can be used for crime investigation. This technique is used by polices and secret services.

The Metropolitan Police (London) has an own division for SOCMINT and collects data of about 9000 people, which are claimed to be extremists[5]. There are also suggestions that some of this data was delivered by the NSA/FIB(Prism-project) which had direct access to the user data of some social networks.

Apparently the drug squat of the USA(DEA) has an SOCMINT program, too. A teenage girl posted a picture of marijuana on Instagram and became a target of the DEA.[6]

Social networks in crime investigationEdit

Despise the intelligences, at least the police in the US uses the social media for crime investigation. The SMILE[7] conference (Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement) is a multinational conference, about how social media can be used in crime investigation.


Beside the law enforcement data of social networks are used to predict crimes. Software already tries to predict crimes based on indicators, which must first be analyzed. If such a system predicts a crime a officer is sent to the location to show presence and disrupt the criminal action. Since 2012 the Los Angeles police is running such a system[8], which reduced the burglaries and violent crimes[9]

Dark Side of the Social WebEdit

File sharing - Pirat Bay[10]Edit

The Pirat Bay is an online platform for file sharing, launched in 2003. Some Swedish copyright law opponents had created the platform to create a file sharing network, and were sued several times, a raid in 2006 and a trial in 2010 let the site go offline, but it was online again after a short time. On 9 December 2014 the site went down again, due to a razzia in Sweden, a day later the site was up again on a site in costa rica[11].

Flash RobsEdit

If everyone would jump of a bridge would you, too? Obviously this works for robbery, (at least) the USA has to face a new kind of organized criminality - flash robs. Flash robs are basically the same as a flash mob - a message is broadcasted to this or that at a specified location, and people do what the message says. Flash mops are usually some funny actions, but some people use flash mobs for collective robbery, psychologist say such flash mobs hide the individuals in a group so they don't feel less responsible and less likely to be caught. An other reason to do this is the excitement of the group action itself. But it's organized robbery. [12]

Terrorism recruitment and propagandaEdit

Terrorist groups put much effort on the social web. The Somalian terrorist group Shabab [13] uses Twitter since years(~2008). Their messages are written in English and boast of their victories, put officials under pressure. It's believed that the twitter activities are targeted to western supporters or to recruit western people, since Somalis seldom speech English and mostly don't have access to the internet.
The ISIS uses the social media in a new dimension Videos showing propaganda, like military parades or massacres, are shared in video portals. Men and women write blogs to connect new recruits [14] and give advice how to contact directly (Kik - messenger).

Terror attacks use new technologyEdit

Modern terrorists are using new technologies to improve the efficiency of their attacks. On the bombing of Mumbai the terrorists were using an operation centre to coordinate their actions, they monitored the TV broadcasters and social media like twitter to search for additional victims. In a special case they used these sources to identify an hostage, a wealthy Indian businessman. The Hostage was executed after the identification [15][16]


When you hear the term “cyberwar“ you probably think of movie-scenes like „Terminator“ or computer games like “Call of Duty”. Well, we haven’t used cyborgs or battlemechs yet to conquer another country, but cyberwar is not a thing of the future. Cyberwar has two different meanings. On the one hand it describes the martial conflict in the virtual space – cyberspace. On the other hand it’s the high-tech forms of modern warfare (entire computerisation and cross-linking in almost every military range). In contrast to conventional weapons cyberwar uses weapons of information technology. Simple assaults try to prevent communication between two systems – the more complex assaults try to assume control of an external system. In both cases it’s the aim to keep up the own chains of communication and command.


There are different methods of cyber warfare which I want to introduce. One of these methods is the so-called “cyber-spying”. Cyber-spying is a modern form of espionage. It’s the act of obtaining information without the permission of the information holder by using spyware like Trojan horses or computer worms. Moreover cyber-spying involves analysis of public activities on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Another method is the so-called “defacement” which describes the act of changing the content of a website without the permission of its holder. With modern social engineering tools like “phishing”, it’s possible to acquire information like usernames, passwords, credit card details by pretending, for example, as a trustworthy concern. Many hacker groups try to get a website offline by using the so-called “DDOS” –attacks, which stands for distributed denial of service attacks. With this attack the website will be overloaded with external communication requests so that it can’t respond to legitimate traffic or it responds so slowly as to be rendered effectively unavailable.

Kosovo WarEdit

The Kosovo War in 1999 was the first cyberwar which was registered in history. The NATO attacked a Serbian anti-aircraft system by using high-frequency microwave radiation. Furthermore they attacked the Serbian telephone-system and hacked several Russian and Serbian bank accounts of the dictator Milosevic to close them. On the other hand Serbia intercepted the insecure NATO-communication; forced a Swiss provider to shut down his “pro Serbia”-website and blanked out several NATO-servers. After bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Chinese hackers attacked various US websites like, and Additionally they sent virus-infested emails.

National Cyber Security CenterEdit

It’s a fact that there are 30.000 attacks on the German government every month[17], that’s why they founded a National Cyber Security on July 23rd 2011, which has been in action since April 2011. The NCAZ ( Nationales Cyber Abwehr Zentrum) is located at the BSI (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik) in Bonn. Ten members have the assignment to detect, prevent and gather information about cyber war activities. However the NCAZ has to take flak shortly after its founding. Ten members were not enough for this task. It needed about ten times more workforce than it has at the moment. Furthermore the hacker group “No-Name” managed to spy confidential data of the PATRAS (tracking transmitter observation system) by using 42 Trojan horses just a few days after NCAZ’s founding.[18]


We have just been witnessing the Arab Spring, a revolution started and/or supported through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. For repressive regimes it becomes more and more difficult to control the flow of information. Even the Great Wall (firewall) of China is trembling.

A short summaryEdit

Weeks before the world’s mainstream media woke up to the story, tweets, posts and pictures began popping up on the internet from Tunisia, warning of trouble to come. A fruit and vegetable seller has set himself on fire on December 18th and suddenly reactions on the “universe” of twitter were exploding. Following the hash tag “#sidibouzid” hundreds of videos and photos were posted, showing students protesting, police abuses and sporadic gunfire. As the messages were virtual protest broke out across the world showing solidarity with Tunisia.

The Begin of a revolution was unfolding and the mainstream media was just beginning to catch up. The Tunisian Government began hacking into and deleting Facebook accounts. Protesters called for help from hacktivist groups like Anonymous. Soon enough another twitter hash tag appeared across the network: #anonymous

Within a matter of hours Anonymous launched Operation Tunisia, paralyzing the president site, several key ministries and the stock exchange. The group also shared a cyber-war survival guide to, among other things, teach the Tunisians to use proxy servers and avoid arrests by the police and army. The government quickly countered with a phishing operation stealing Facebook and email passwords to spy on activists. But tweets continued to spread documenting a society’s breakdown. Although the mainstream media started to report about the processes, the social media networks had the best coverage and documentation of it. A new power structure had emerged and protests had spread to other countries.

But the anger had already routed itself inside Arabians’ minds. Through social networks, Egyptians had begun drawing connections in late December. Inspired by Tunisia’s success the fear factor had finally been broken. One of the regimes last tries was it to shut down the internet, but it was too late. The World Wide Web was against them. The accounts of police abuse and violence circulated online including footage that the mainstream media picked up. A coalition of volunteers, organizations and activists set up platforms to get the message out. Even journalists in Egypt used their cellphones to send tweets to friends who relate their messages. This shows how much power today’s Social Media possesses.

A little breakdownEdit

It’s very complicated to investigate the exact influence and every little development in detail because the whole situation is very complex. You would need lots of special tools to measure it approximately.

But there are a few facts that are relatively obvious and easy to understand:

  • The recent demonstrations and subversions especially showed that Social Media instruments like Blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can generate a huge impact on the mobilization of crowds of people. Additionally the Web 2.0 – nowadays sometimes even called Web 3.0 - helps to gather information, ignoring the limitation of borders, cultural and ethnic differences.
  • It provides the possibility to call attention to grievances independent from the conventional and regime-controlled media in an easy and direct way. Even Al Jazeera picked up the messages and tweets from activists to spread their word in the world.
  • It showed the importance for governments to be active and ever-present in the Social Media channels.
  • Activists used for the main part Facebook to schedule protest, Twitter to coordinate actions and YouTube to tell the world about it.

On the other hand Social Media also owns a potential “dark side”:

  • There is always the possibility for ministries to spy out data from users and even to infiltrate them.
  • Social Media has the potential to control people in their actions and opinions by targeted distribution of incorrect information or ideologies.

References. [19][20][21]

Campaigning and LobbyingEdit

President Obama’s campaign has shown how social media have become indispensable in today’s campaigning [ref needed]. But in the same way that social media can make careers, the social swarm can also destroy them as has happened in the causa Guttenberg [22].

Meanwhile, the social web also starts to get used for lobbying. An interesting web site is campact (, that wants to influence political decisions.

The FutureEdit

In her lecture at Stanford University, Beth Noveck that if law and technology get brought closer together, this could lead to a new type of collaborative democracy. It's not clear what will happen in the future. There is a future for the E-Government in Germany but in the south of European the people need to reach the Internet-age-time. The Internet continues to grow in reach and influence and gets more and more User. And the government also use the Internet again and again. It's cheap and the government has to spend less time to inform the people. But there is a high potential to make the E-Government palatable to the citizen.


Watch the lecture by Beth Noveck: ’Technologies for Collaborative Democracy’ (


Ex.1: Citizen JournalismEdit

Some blogs are referred to as ’citizen journalism’. Find some of the more popular one, and start to follow them for a few days/weeks/months. Write about it in your blog.

Ex.2: Cyber WarEdit

Find trust worthy sources in the internet that report about cyber war activity, and also about activities of governmental intelligence agencies.

Ex.3: Social Media make History (optional)Edit

After an introduction, some remarks on a major earthquake in China, Clay Shirky talks about how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censor (

Ex.4: Reading (optional)Edit

Read the article ’Kooperativen Technologien im zivilgesellschaftlichen Einsatz’ and tell us what you think about it. ( (


  19. Social Capital Blog,
  20. Fast Company,
  21. Media-Culture Journal,
  22. Plagiatsaffäre Guttenberg,äre_Guttenberg

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