In the past few days, NATO officials have acknowledged that social media reports contribute to their targeting process – but only after checking them against other, more reliable, sources of information.
A Twitter account with apparent links to the British military has even taken the unusual step of asking users to submit the precise co-ordinates of troops loyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.
Ms. Clinch was among the first to respond. Months of online activism earned her a role as administrator of the Libyan Youth Movement page on Facebook – the only non-Libyan honoured with the job, she says – and on Monday she noticed that a regular member, somebody located in western Libya, had pinpointed a gas station converted into a temporary headquarters for Col. Gadhafi’s forces. She tweeted the co-ordinates, along with the longitude and latitude of a few other targets passed along from the same source, asking NATO to “clean up” the government troops.
Ms. Clinch was not sure whether NATO had bombed those locations, but she continued to scour the Internet for more leads.
“I don’t believe in dictatorships,” she said. “It’s inconceivable to me that people could live in these conditions.”
It’s a good thing that NATO forces check and re-check this information, since social media can be used by the bad guys too. But still, this is a wonderful development.