Social media as a protest tool

Looking back at the revolutionary movements during the Arab Spring, Western media presented a fairly prominent theme relating to social media’s role in organising, implementing and spreading the word for political protests against the governments for example in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Often the headline of he news story referred to social media instead of the development of any of protests.

I agree with Morozov’s article where he argues that the role that social media plays in the recent Arab Spring revolutionary movements is perhaps overstated.

Many news stories at the time of the protests were highlighting the role of social media in their operation and planning while giving much less details and information about the cause, purpose and developments of the protests. Viewers, especially Western audiences, might watch the news and think how great Facebook and Twitter is for causing the toppling of dictatorial rule in Egypt. What about the Egyptian people?  Oppressed for decades, effected by violent policing and discontent slowly bubbling to the surface. Many risked their lives by speaking out against something that has dominated their lives every single day. Showing the world the passion and courage of these people to decide to act in defiance of such regimes is surely where the news stories should directed.

egypt_socialmediaOverstating social media’s role in the uprisings denotes the role of the people and shifts the credit to Western based companies like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube simply because their platforms were used.

Maria Popova, in her article, presents some good arguments, summing up social media’s role to; to inform, to inspire and to incite. To an extent, I think it does all of these things but couldn’t be attributed to be the cause or reason these actions are taken.

A ‘tool’ is the best way to describe social media’s use in modern protesting and political organization. I believe their still would have been an uprising against Mubarak’s government even without the use of social media. It may not have happened so fast and provided the same real-time news reporting but the motivation and culture of discontent and activism was still there and social media had nothing to do with how the people actually felt about their governments.

Social media and its functions will continue to evolve and be utilised by activists around the world to gather support and politically organise against oppressive regimes. Anything that assists in delivering a message to a wider audience can also be viewed as an effective political tool. A protester holding a picket sign with a strong message written on it is utilizing it to assist in the whole cause and I believe the Internet and particularly social media could be classified the same way.

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4 thoughts on “Social media as a protest tool

  1. I’ve been trying to write my blog but I am just so torn. Western media seems to always focus on whatever they feel makes a story. It’s unfortunate that the stories seem to focus on the power of social media rather than what was really happening on the ground. It just goes to show the effect of the media’s manipulation.That picture you’ve got is awesome though.

  2. Your assessment of social media’s role as a tool during the Arab Spring is 100% correct. Social media has the great ability to mobilise and organise these uprisings however it is the strength and courage of the individuals that should have been at the forefront of the medias attention rather than defining it as a revolution based on technology. When discussing the role of social media and activism it is important to distinguish the differences between uprisings and ‘general’ social activism. Social media’s greatest attributes in the efforts of social activism still is and always will be the ability to communicate, increase transparency and its organisational qualities in mobilising for collective action. Whilst most still do not participate, they are changed by the fact that they can (Charles, 2010).

  3. I do agree that social media is a helpful tool for organising protests. it can be hard to discern whether an uprising was solely because of social media because western media only gets interested in what is happening in certain places in the world when they become really news worthy. however i also thin that social media should not be underestimated. it has the power to connect people that other forms of media do not.

  4. I agree that viewing social media as the reason behind protests is completely incorrect. As you said, Facebook like social media is just a tool. However, I don’t think discounting social media as protest platform simply because we’re worried that not enough credit will go to the people is incorrect as well. The fact of the matter is that Facebook is incredibly helpful to protests as it can easily connect them all to people and places all over the world. Even Facebook’s event feature and community pages help protesters in organising themselves and uniting over the internet so that they can band together in real life. Not all stories treat social media as something more than what it is, which is just a tool. This article looks at how social media can be used by protesters. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110202-social-media-tool-protest

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