The Twitter problem that could change history

The Twitter problem that could change history

Jason Steinhauer is the director of Villanova University's Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. During the briefing, Putin proudly stated that the wife of French medieval King Henry I, Anna Yaroslavna, was Russian. The exchange garnered thousands of reactions on Twitter, ranging from laughter and shock to citizen historians sharing their own interpretations of what the medieval Slavic states looked like. Absent from the conversation? The same study found that nearly 6-in-10 Twitter users get news on Twitter. On behalf of the US State Department, I was recently in Lithuania, where Russian media are asserting that since Soviet troops won the land of Lithuania during World War II, it should now be returned to Russia. This is part of a larger effort by Russian media and military to discredit Lithuanian history and justify a return to a Soviet-style sphere of influence. Many historians, including those who work on Russia, have Twitter accounts. Whereas in the past these contestations over history may have played out in books, the mainstream media and academia, today they also occur over the Internet and social media.

Trump’s new top economic adviser has a history of slamming the president on Twitter
Kanye’s new philosophy book may explain why he wiped out his Twitter history
How I cleaned up my embarrassing Twitter history
The issue of historical accuracy isn't a uniquely Ukraine-Russia story, Jason Steinhauer says.
The issue of historical accuracy isn’t a uniquely Ukraine-Russia story, Jason Steinhauer says.

Jason Steinhauer is the director of Villanova University’s Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)Those distracted by our recent political theater may have missed an extraordinary international incident at the end of May: Russia and Ukraine got into a Twitter war about history.

Jason Steinhauer

A brief recap of what occurred: Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in France. During the briefing, Putin proudly stated that the wife of French medieval King Henry I, Anna Yaroslavna, was Russian.

The official Twitter account for Russia tweeted back: “We are proud of our common history … (we) share the same historical heritage which should unite our nations, not divide us.”

The exchange garnered thousands of reactions on Twitter, ranging from laughter and shock to citizen historians sharing their own interpretations of what the medieval Slavic states looked like.

Absent from the conversation? The voices of historians, who are critical in providing honest assessments based on well-researched evidence.

Hundreds of millions of people now consume historical information on social media, either directly or via links. According to a 2016 Pew survey, a majority of US adults — 62% — get news on social media, and 18% do so often. The same study found that nearly 6-in-10 Twitter users get news on Twitter. Few go to academic monographs or journal articles…

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This