Protests in the Age of Social Media

Twitter Revolution is distinguished from other forms of activism because of the means by which the cyber activists communicate and aggregate through Twitter. It is an example of how social media facilitates communication among people globally in political revolutions.” ¹

Before social media, protests were mostly covered by big news corporations through TV and newspapers. How they were covered depended on where you lived and the angle the network or newspaper chose to tell the story. With the emergence of social media, individuals can cover just as much if not more of a big event than regular news corporations. Social media harnesses the power of connections and hashtags to help people track and follow big world events.

Iran

We got our first real look at how powerful social media can be in 2009 during the protests against the Iranian presidential election results. The protests were titled the Iranian Green Movement². Thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice their displeasure of the election results and claimed that votes were manipulated and the election results were rigged. It is said that Iranian authorities blocked websites, cell phone transmissions and text messaging². Protesters looked for alternative ways of communicating and relied on Twitter and Facebook to not just communicate but share their experiences with the world.

Tunisia

Shortly after the Iranian Green Movement in Iran, demonstrations erupted in Tunisia as people took to the streets to voice their displeasure with longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It is said that the demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of political freedoms like freedom of speech and poor living conditions³.

It didn’t end there as Egypt also experienced a revolution where social media sites like twitter and facebook were again used to communicate and broadcast their displeasure with their government.

#NotMyPresident

The first real protests against election results to happen in the West and to be covered in the age of social media happened this year. Although short lived, thousands of people took to the streets all across America to voice their displeasure of Trump being elected the next President of the USA. His win created a shockwave across the nation and the hashtag #NotMyPresident was quickly created and used to capture people’s experiences at protests as well as to follow news on the hot topic.

#StandingRock #NoDAPL

Most people are likely aware of the ongoing protests in Standing Rock where thousands of people are protesting against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Native Americans have a reservation in the area and are protesting the construction of the pipeline out of (understandable) fear that the pipeline will cause damage to the land surrounding their reservation and could eventually have an oil spill into the nearby rivers. This would have catastrophic environmental consequences and impact their very livelihood.  The hashtags #StandingRock #NoDAPL have been used to help cover the story through social media. More interestingly, until only recently, no major news organizations had been covering the protests on the ground in North Dakota. Personally, I was mostly learning about the latest updates by following Unicorn Riot @UR_Ninja on twitter. They are a commercial-free, viewer supported, independent media & live video streaming company. They are proving to be a great alternative to the major media outlets like CNN and Fox News.

What other notable protests do you recall being covered through social media?


¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Revolution

² https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Iranian_presidential_election_protests

³ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunisian_Revolution

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