While this site is about how social media is becoming a tool of national security monitoring and analysis efforts, it works the other way around too as a supplement to military offensives. In the case of the current Kenyan invasion of Somalia, that means turning to Twitter to get out the word to innocent Somalians to get out of the way.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the Kenyan Army’s spokesman, has used Twitter to give progress updates about the incursion and at times has used Twitter to name certain towns the army would hit next in hopes of protecting citizens.
There’s a question of how effective this is, given Somalia’s access to the Internet is extremely rudimentary. Internet access limited largely to cities and usually confined to Internet cafes because of cost, according to Abdikadir Ahmed, who has worked on Internet freedom issues in Somalia. Ahmed also said that broader use of social media can help Somalia get out of its decades-long conflicts. He says:
Nowadays, mainly in the cities, you will find Internet cafes. Youth are using Facebook and chatting. If someone posts something on Facebook, there are thousands of people who pass it on. We have plenty of news websites, about 700. But when it comes to blogs, it is something new. In Somalia, we have extremists and moderates. … Social blogs can help Somalis come out with peaceful ways for [dealing with] a conflict that’s been going on for more than 20 years.