The Theory of the Globe Scrambled by Social Networks:
A New Sphere of Influence 2.0

Tiziano Peccia

Abstract. The Cold War seems to continue in a different form, on Social Networks. Concerning the use of the Social Networks, the Globe seems to be scrambled; if the Western Countries have the same social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, all the Eastern Governments prefer to promote Social Networks closer to their own culture, avoiding any American influences. It is difficult to establish the consequences of these actions, but the modus operandi seems to be that of the Cold War; of course, in other areas.


Sina Weibo1, Drauglem, Tudou, V Kontake&co: strange words to most Western ears. It is important to take into account that the perception of Social Networks is different between Western and Eastern countries. If today’s platforms Facebook, Google and Instagram are seamlessly connected to Western people’s daily lives, you cannot assume the same for other countries’ habits. According to Barsky and Purdon2, the links between virtual users exist since the birth of the Web. Therefore, it is impossible to deny that, since 20033, the increasing existence of Social Networks has had a major influence on the daily life of most of the global population.
Through Twitter it is possible to send speedy, short messages of maximum 140 characters, and to also share links and pictures. Facebook is more personal; it is possible to describe yourself in great detail, writing sensitive data, such as jobs and studies or a list of relatives, and it is used to create more detailed relationships. Sina Weibo is the Chinese Social Network and is a clever fusion between Twitter and Facebook, symbolising the Chinese talent in making new business by mixing strong points of various products; the usability of mobile in publishing short 'tweets' is as efficient as Twitter; it is also possible to use hashtags, as well as to build your own profile like in Facebook.

Kwame Nkrumah thought applied on 2.0

Kwame Nkrumah said in the last century – unaware of the onset of Social Media – people are living 'neo-colonization'4 effects also in other ways that he could not imagine. The truth is that Western countries use American Social Media and absorb their ideologies and customs. From Estonia, Colombia, Madagascar or New Zeeland, all these people follow the 'selfie' of the Academy Awards’ night actors, Obama’s tweets on Crimea situation or Lindsay Lohan’s 'prison break'; it looks as natural as an integral part of everyday life. A European Union citizen feels more connected to South Korea or Japan, countries in the 'East' that use the Social Medias of the 'West', compared to the neighbour Belarus where Russian Social Networks are more popular.

Examples of different uses of the social network

Western people can easily follow the Versace show online in Fashion Week Tokyo, or they can emulate Seoul’s flash mob of PSY’s 'Gangnam style'. This example shows that the West is fully linked by Social Media. All the people are linked, crossing geographical and generational barriers: all the people are linked by ideologies as during the time of the Cold War. Pope Francis is the first Pope in history to use a Social Network; he chose Twitter instead of Facebook. According to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Twitter is better suited to represent an 'Institution' as opposed to Facebook, which is too personal. This is an example of crossing geographical barriers; Pope Francis could send religious messages through Twitter, such as his recent effort to make new peace agreements to solve the situation in Syria.5
Another example of crossing geographical barriers, concerns the case of the Harold J. Greene murder. The US General was shot in Kabul by what seemed to be an Afghan soldier. Suddenly, the Afghan Defence Ministry Spokesman, Mohammad Zahir Azimi, communicated on Twitter that the killer was not an Afghan soldier, but a terrorist wearing an Afghan army uniform. The analysis of this case is interesting, because it shows how the Afghan Spokesman preferred to communicate his own message directly to the US and the entire world, without going through journalists, Middle Eastern Social Networks or newspapers. His message to the US was to emphasize that the Afghan Government was not responsible for the terrorist attack; the best way to communicate the message was through Twitter.6 This was the best medium to communicate the Afghan position to the US because Twitter is an American Social Media, shared by most Western-allied countries; this is not simply crossing geographical barriers, but also sending out a message in a form that Western people and Governments could absorb comfortably thanks to their own familiarity with the use of Twitter.
Concerning the generational barriers, parents are often 'friends' of their children on Facebook; they follow the same discussions, they share the same links. Therefore, they could develop personal discussions with them not just concerning online games or fun topics, but also touching sensitive issues like “drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy”7, politics. This type of information sharing is much more intense than before the development of Social Networks.
Breaking down generational and geographical barriers thanks to the discussions around various issues as religions, politics and sex, helps people to be more linked culturally in sharing information and points of view.
Furthermore, if most Europeans, for example, are part of the 'Western block' of social communities, such as Twitter or Skype users, the rest of the world has different customs, which do not depend on geographical criteria but have an'ideological basis'. According to Alexa.com, an important part of the 'Muslim world', for example, uses Cloob. Alexa.com’s country ranking “is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors to this site and page views on this site from users from that country over the past month”8. Cloob is the Iranian Social Medium and it is guided by the Parliamentary diktats: to survive and to be approved it has to conform to the political regime and the Muslim law. Or it will be censured by the politics, which happened on 7th March 2008. Obviously, the 'Russian world' has its own social medium; Zuckerberg’s staff knows it well because this year they lost the primacy in Kirghizistan, who opted for Odnklassniski 9(who has also Uzbekistan’s primacy). It is possible to affirm that probably Zuckerberg’s decisions are also characterized by those kinds of dynamics: in 2014 he 'conquered' Syria, who before used Maktoob, an Arab-Internet platform based in Amman. The interest of the West in global communication is also shown through the fact that Yahoo! recognized the emerging power of Maktoob and, for this reason, they bought it, ensuring a good market even in Middle East. Therefore, it is possible to affirm that also the expansion of Facebook in Syria has produced important outcomes.10

US’ social networks in Afghanistan

The most important social network used in Afghanistan came from the United States. If the Social Network desired for Cuba from the US Agency for International Development never really made it, in Afghanistan you can definitely speak of an American accomplishment. In Afghanistan, Paywast has 1.6 million users.

“The projects were encouraged by Hillary Rodham Clinton
when she was Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton saw social
media as an important tool for diplomacy after observing
how Facebook and YouTube were used to organize protests
in Egypt and Tunisia during popular uprisings in 2010
[…] The United States spends millions of dollars a year on
social media programs as part of efforts to promote
democracy and better governance.“11

The choice to finance foreign projects such as the development of Social Networks is reminiscent of the methods used, for example, with the Marshal Plan at the end of World War II, to bring Western European countries under the US’s sphere of influence.12

The most followed pages on Facebook in Afghanistan

Thanks to SocialBakers.com, it is possible to define which are the most followed pages on Facebook in the Afghan market. The SocialBakers.com analysis is based on counting how many 'local likes' each page gets. The schedules are divided into sections: Pages, Brands, Media, Entertainment, Sport, Celebrities, Society, Community, Places13. It is important to state the importance, in the top ten of each section, of the fact that the first positions are occupied by characters or companies of Afghan and Arabian culture. The presence of Western preferences are relegated to the lower positions in the schedules; therefore, the impact of Globalization is quite strong. For example, in the Brand section, the first position belongs to MTN Afghanistan (with 162,552 local fans), a South African mobile telecommunications company, and the last position belongs to Sony. Concerning the Media section, the first position belongs to TOLOnews; TOLOnews is the news channel of the Afghan MOBU Group. TOLOnews is followed by BBC Persian. BBC Persian is a perfect example of the fusion in Globalization of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Middle Eastern trends and interests. Regular Aghan citizens are predominantly present in the people section, as opposed to celebrities or other public figures. The same happens with celebrities; the undeniable interest for the users of Facebook in Afghanistan for national and Arabian celebrities is interesting. Western 'faces' are absent; probably, Priyanka Chopra, the Indian ex Miss World, is one of the few symbols active also in Hollywood; she takes up the 14th position on the Celebrities list. This outcome reflects Afghan trends: if Facebook is the number one Afghan social network, the users’ interests are still rooted on Afghan and Arab culture. Keeping an eye on the same schedules in countries such as France or the Philippines, it is possible to state that the biggest impact of Globalization can be seen through social media; regarding celebrities, in France the 2nd and 3rd positions are occupied by the singers Rihanna and Shakira, and in the Philippines popular brands are multinationals such as Samsung Mobile, Nescafe and KitKat. Facebook in Afghanistan is an interesting Western product adapted to Middle Eastern contents.

Conclusion and reflections

Therefore, if someone were to think that Social Media’s developments are probably linked to languages, the Italian example of Tiscali proves why this is not the case. Tiscali was taken over by foreign companies and lost competitiveness also in Italy.14
Furthermore, Europe, a melting pot of languages, is entirely 'tuned' into Facebook. On the other hand, if Western people imagine China's people with different customs than they have, they are on the wrong track; they show videos on Tudou as the Western people on YouTube, they use BaiduBaike if they want to use an encyclopedia (the Chinese version of Wikipedia) and they personalize profiles on QZone that has functions really similar to facebook15. Probably today the 'Great Wall of China' has bricks 2.0 to control their own society better; the same goes for Russia and Iran, who want to protect their own citizen ideologies from American influences.

Obviously, the reasons concern even the decision of autocratic governments to control the public opinion internally through censuring Social Networks. From Kabul, the young journalist Mustafa Kazemi uses Twitter, posting external links to articles, tackling issues such as difficulties in spreading information in countries where a lot of the information systems are monitored or repressed by Governments. 16
Probably it is fair to say that the Cold War is not over, but instead it is now fought in the field of Information-Technologies. Are 'Western' and 'Eastern' people pawns in the great chess-board 2.0 that Iran, China, Russia & USA are drawing?
The answer is 'no'. During International Women’s Day 2014, Malala Yousafzai emphasized the strong power of Social Media. The Pakistani teenager invited young women to use Facebook, not just to collect 'likes' or to show own pictures, but to use the power of communication to highlight issues related to women.17
Over the last few years, Media started speaking about the Twitter revolution. Protesters used twitter in cases as Egypt, Iran and Moldova, to show and share their own disappointments; for example, in 2011, protest tweets were followed by hashtags #Jan25, the starting day of the protest, and #Egypt (Banks, 2011): hashtags had the power to catch the attention of the entire world on the same topic.
According to Lev Grossman (2009), Twitter did of course not start the protests in Iran; therefore it is important to highlight the value of the Social Network in spreading the protests outside geographical limits and in reinforcing public convictions that the government could not repress.18 Therefore, we can affirm that the value of Twitter in politics is huge; as Brett said, “It’s part of a general transformation of society that the Internet culture is driving”.
Therefore, even Social Media are a tool to use carefully; as the Italian President of the Chamber Laura Boldrini (2014) said, even online it is required to preserve privacy, dignity and also the right to be forgotten; if Social Media have absolute power in democracy diffusion, they are even important in guaranteeing the future of freedom, privacy and autonomy.

And who is the Good and the Bad guy? The US, who want to impose their own way of thinking through the guise of the 'free market' or China who mark Western technologies as 'illegal' to dominate their Chinese citizens?
Only time will tell: the fact is that the world looks split on contents and ideologies, not in the 'channels' (Social Media), which seems to be an even more serious issue.


This work started during the studies of the author at University College Dublin, creating a strong interest in the development of the sphere of influences. The author wish to acknowledge P.Doest and A.Zitolo for the assistance provided.

1 Wei Lu, Guoqiang Cai, Weibin Liu,Weiwei Xing (2012) Proceeding of the 2012 International Conference on Information Technology and Software Engineering, p. 119.

2 Barsky, E. & Purdon, M. (2006) Introducing Web 2.0: social networking and social bookmarking for health librarians, Journal of Canadian Health Library Association, pp. 65-7.

3 Maged N. Kamel Boulos, Steve Wheeler (2007) The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education, Health Information & Libraries Journal.

4 Raymond F. Betts (2004) Decolonization, p. 65.

5 Mario Escobar (2013) Francis: Man of Prayer, p. 159.

6 Gulf Times (2014) US general reportedly killed in Kabul shooting, 19 wounded [Accessed 08 August 2014].

7 Elias Aboujaoude (2011) Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, p. 146.

8 Alexa (2014) How popular is cloomb.com?, http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/cloob.com, [Accessed 11 June 2014].

9 Ronald Deibert (2012) Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace, p. 32.

10 Ronald Deibert (2012) Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace, p. 574.

11 New York Times (2014) Social Media in Afghanistan Takes On Life of Its Own, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/world/asia/social-media-in-afghanistan-takes-on-life-of-its-own.html?_r=0 [Accessed 11 June 2014].

12 Zahra Tara (2011) The Psychological Marshall Plan”: Displacement, Gender, and Human Rights after World War II, p. 165.

13 Social Bakers (2014) Afghanistan Facebook Statistics, http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/afghanistan [Accessed 27 July 2014].

14 Il Sole24Ore (2014) Tiscali al bivio: o le banche danno ancora tempo a Soru o la societa’ rischia di saltare, http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/finanza-e-mercati/2014-06-01/tiscali-bivio-o-banche-danno-ancora-tempo-soru-o-societa-rischia-saltare-184613.shtml?uuid=ABGf0tMB [Accessed 28 July 2014].

15 Laura Maya (2012) Envision to Profit from the Power of Mobile Social Media in Social Consumer Engagement.

16 Tecnocino (2012) Twitter racconta la guerra in Afghanistan senza filtri in tempo reale, http://www.tecnocino.it/2012/02/articolo/twitter-racconta-la-guerra-in-afghanistan-senza-filtri-in-tempo-reale/37179/ [Accessed 07 August 2014].

17 The Telegraph (2014) Malala Yousafzai: Teens, don’t use Facebook to get ‘likes’ - use it to highlight women’s issues, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10684908/International-Womens-Day-Malala-Yousafzai-Teens-dont-use-Facebook-to-get-likes-use-it-to-highlight-womens-issues.html [Accessed 06/08/2014].

18 John H. Parmelee (2012) Politics and the Twitter revolution: How Tweets influence the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public, p. 15.