Back in May the Bureau of Investigative Journalism described how local activists were using Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the news of US drone strikes in Yemen. Haykal Bafana, a lawyer living in San’a, the capital of Yemen, kept up a barrage of tweets recording the ‘covert’ strikes in near real-time, which were then amplified through Facebook and micro-news platforms in the region. You can follow him here.
This is all of a piece with the incorporation of social media into the conduct of late modern war that was evident during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and, as Noel Sharkey told the Bureau,
‘It is incredible how the same type of technology used by the CIA to kill people with drones in the Yemen, is empowering the Yemenis to tweet the attacks as they are happening. They can send us all pictures and bring us closer to the horror they are experiencing. Technology in the small may eventually bring down the over-use of military technology in the large.’
Drone strikes are certainly now being made visible across a range of social media platforms, and now comes news – from the wonderful Jorge Amigo – that Josh Begley (whose Drones+ app was serially rejected by Apple) has started tweeting what Jake Heller calls ‘the entire history of US drone strikes’ in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as part of a graduate class at NYU, Narrative Lab, which focuses on ‘the impact of interactivity and technology on traditional narrative structure’. Begley told Heller that, for him, ‘it’s about the way stories are told on new social-media platforms.’
How complete the data series can be is an open question – and the rhetorical impact would be even more devastating if Afghanistan were included – but as you can see from my screen grab above Begley, who started at noon on Tuesday 11 December, tweeted that after twelve hours ‘we’re only at March 2010’… Follow him at Dronestream here. And, as Connor Simpson at the Atlantic Wire commented, ‘if this project doesn’t merit an A, we would love to see one that does.’