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.