The Syrian revolution and consequent civil war have posed a challenge for traditional news media and journalists in that they are unable to operate from inside Syria, social media has therefore taken on a primary role in disseminating news to international media. However, the lack of citizen journalists and verifiable social media networks has rendered this heavily “social mediated” conflict as problematic in terms of asserting the veracity of the data and information gleaned from social media users inside the Syrian borders. This is in contrast to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia where the veracity of the social media accounts employed by anti-governmental activists were much easier to confirm. Moreover, most citizen journalists have fled Syria, which further complicates the situation.
Syrian rebels and anti-governments activists have taken to social media to broadcast the atrocities committed by the Bashar Al-Assad regime and its cronies. Pro-government forces have also employed social media to cast the rebels as terrorists (which in the case of groups like ISIS is true). Assessing the veracity of the data requires data analysis tools such as social media data visualization tools and aggregation tools which are currently being developed by the private sector to respond to the need put forth by the situation in Syria. North West National Laboratory is working on developing such tools which would help users to comb through data for specific information or insights.
The Syrian conflict will probably have a tremendous impact on the development of social media tools and analysis. This will be of great benefit for future war or conflict zones. Traditional media has exposed its own shortcomings and its failure to penetrate the bloodiest war zones for information. Dictators and terrorist groups have no qualms in arresting and executing journalists, and social media has been proven the only tool available to the media in its quest to gain insight into the Syrian conflict, and it seems, future conflicts as well.