Can I fight in World War III

On Tiktok, an 18-year-old conjures up the escalation between the USA and Iran leading to the “third world war” - and thus reaches an audience of millions

The example of the student Laura Sophie from Munich shows what the biggest disincentive of such platforms is.

Laura Sophie is an 18-year-old student from Munich. She is a star in social networks: More than 2.2 million people follow her on Tiktok, 828,000 on Instagram, 220,000 on Youtube. She usually posts dance videos or gives tips for everyday school life. The content is harmless, the young woman is nice, the videos are harmless.

At the weekend, however, she explained to her audience in a “little educational video” why a third world war might occur. She says: “Donald Trump killed one of the most important men in Iran. But now it's not just the USA and Iran who are fighting. Because America is in NATO. There are many countries there, and they are helping the United States. If NATO joins in and Iran teams up with Russia and China, then that is a huge part that is fighting. " And after all, that wouldn't be a good thing. The student also adds: “Iran has an extremely large number of atomic bombs and dangerous weapons. If one goes off, we're all gone. " In the meantime, the video is no longer publicly available, but it still made the rounds on Twitter.

Oh you holy bimbam 🤯🍿

- Onkel Nasch (@OnkelNasch) January 5, 2020

Laura Sophie has now also deleted a dance video in which she celebrates the fact that, for once, Germany will not be to blame for a world war, as well as two other videos with political messages. The NZZ would have liked to ask Laura Sophie why she came up with the idea of ​​posting such an explanatory video. However, she did not respond to our request. Meanwhile, Laura Sophie has apologized publicly on Twitter. The shit storm that she had to take for her video is not acceptable.

hello ... I saw that my statements, which I mentioned in the video, are not quite correct. But that was how it was passed on to me and I thought it was true. Sorry for that. I only meant it in good will ... #laurasophie

- Laura Sophie (@justlaurasophie) January 6, 2020

The video has also been taken offline since I knew it was not 100% correct, and I corrected my mistakes on TikTok (also offline again). I think everyone makes mistakes, so please stop this shitstorm ... thanks #laurasophie

- Laura Sophie (@justlaurasophie) January 6, 2020

Social media users expect the "Third World War"

Your crashed video is another example that makes the peculiar mechanisms of social networks visible and shows how quickly a snowball can turn into an avalanche. Because Laura Sophie is not alone with her “opinion”: After the killing of the Iranian general Kassem Soleimani by the USA and the subsequent fear of an escalation of the longstanding conflict, it washed the hashtag #WWIII into the trends. Especially on the platforms Tiktok and Twitter, numerous memes about a possible outbreak of a third world war spread - mostly clearly ironic, but often with a pinch of fear.

Me calling my mom to pick me up cause my captain yelled at me # / SSlSQquGpL

- Epy (@ ERuiz37) January 5, 2020

The use of search terms such as “World War 3” or “Third World War” also skyrocketed on Google. What's more, the website of the Selective Service - the US agency responsible for mobilizing conscripts in the event of a major military operation - was accessed so often that it was temporarily unavailable due to overload. Such examples and the video by Laura Sophie show that not all social media users make fun of the conflict; some actually fear the outbreak of a global war. And without a serious classification, this diffuse fear spreads more and more in the social networks.

"World politics from an almost childlike point of view"

We wanted to know how an experienced NZZ editor abroad reacted to Laura Sophie's video, and we showed it to Beat Bumbacher. How does he judge what has been said? “You can see immediately that she did not fully understand a lot, linked up half-knowledge and knitted a story from it. This is world politics from an almost childlike point of view. " Stories like this were also told in the past - but in the playground. Iran has neither nuclear weapons nor NATO would be immediately involved in an open conflict.

The conflict between Iran and the US threatens to escalate. Our foreign editor explains the connections in the NZZ video:

It is questionable if young adults like Laura Sophie can spread half-truths to millions of people without contradiction. They don't seem to be aware that their videos reach more people than many daily newspapers and that they have a competence function with their followers. It is dangerous for their “declaration of war” to circulate without classification on platforms such as Tiktok or Twitter.

Media skills and general education can help

The platforms also actively support a snowball effect: the trends place the posts prominently, which encourages users even more to create similar content in order to tap the free reach. They should not be accused of having malicious intent. They just do what social networks teach us: generate likes, followers and reach. The only remedy is media competence and general education: If the mostly young users can correctly classify the content of the video, then the dissemination and outrage about it will also evaporate - and the little snowball will not turn into an avalanche.

Laura Sophie's Tiktok profile has been dominated again since Tuesday morning by dance videos, little sketches and trivialities such as: "Who of you is also an absolute no-brainer when it comes to cooking?" And maybe that's better.