Cyberspace is an alien concept to North Korean citizens, since Internet infrastructure is almost non-existent within the country. Only a very small percentage of elites have access to the Internet and a larger number of privileged North Koreans have access to the Intranet, a tightly controlled and content-filtered alternative to the World Wide Web. It is not surprising that the North Korean government utilizes the Internet and social media to mainly target foreigners than its own residents, who still rely on traditional news platforms for information (information that is state-sponsored and state-approved).
Various bodies within the North Korean regime have launched English-language Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts to reach global audiences. The content on these pages is purely propagandistic, as the regime uses social media platforms to “praise its system and leaders” and to reiterate information spewed out by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Some North Korean social media accounts were hacked by the hacker group Anonymous in 2013. “Hackers left a message on Twitter and posted a picture of the North Korean leader’s face with a pig-like snout and a drawing of Mickey Mouse on his chest.” So, this doesn’t seem like North Korea has been too successful in safeguarding these accounts. Below is a screenshot of North Korea’s Twitter account: (which probably only tweets propaganda)
Below is North Korea’s YouTube page. I don’t even want to know what kind of distorted information they are propagating through these videos.
Personally, I don’t think the North Korean government’s social media efforts are effective at all. To me, and I hope to many in the international audience, their social media campaign is pathetic. I laugh it off because it’s not necessarily orchestrated in a systematic, sophisticated manner (compared with the social media campaign of ISIS). Instead, I view North Korea’s attempts on social media as a desperate assertion of authority and justification of greatness to the global order.
Regarding reporters within the country, there are no citizen journalists or freely-reporting journalists at all. All reporters are sanctioned by the North Korean government and are severely limited in the information they can publish. All publicized information is filtered through the regime, so there is no such thing as live-tweeting the news or posting pictures of events on Facebook, since this infrastructure isn’t even available to the average person.
However, the country has developed a 3G cellular network and a rudimentary social network available to foreigners, “which is more of an intranet bulletin board and is used largely to post birthday messages, especially among university students and professors.” Screenshot below:
Even if foreign journalists wanted to access Facebook and Twitter to report what they’re seeing/doing through the country’s brand new 3G cellular network, they absolutely couldn’t because North Koreans use a state-run operating system called “Red Star.” “Red Star” includes “government-sanctioned Web sites and local message boards, which means they can’t access Western social networks like Facebook and Twitter.”