Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook’s new “Nearby Friends” feature could be a tool for disasters

During Tuesday’s class we discussed different technology tools that can be used to respond to disasters. Today, I read an article on CNN.com about Facebook launching a new feature called “Nearby Friends” and I thought it could be an interesting tool that could be used to respond to natural disasters, though it certainly does have some drawbacks. If users choose to turn the feature on, their friends will be able to follow their location. The idea is that the feature will enable face-to-face interaction by allowing users to see which of their friends are nearby. Users are also able to choose which friends are able to access their location information. Furthermore, the location is only shared with friends who have agreed to also share their locations. The feature will automatically update the location of the user.

The initial safety and privacy concerns are mitigated since Facebook made the feature opt-in and gives users much flexibility in choosing who is allowed to view their location. Users must be cautious with who they allow to follow them and parents must be especially vigilant about their children. But, if used properly, it gives only people close to them the ability to view their location. In times of disaster, this could be extremely beneficial. Following disasters, family and friends often have a difficult time locating their loved ones. This feature has the potential to allow people to quickly locate their loved ones. It could be deployed in disaster zones for this purpose.  It is, however, limited in how much it could be used since the app would still require some type of network connection to continue sending updates.

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Muslim feminists online

While doing some general research on social media activism, I came across an article about social media platforms dedicated to the efforts of Muslim feminists. With images of Muslim women wearing burqas and the tragically inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai in my mind, I do not readily associate feminism with having a significant role in the Muslim religion. It turns out that there are numerous blogs written by Muslim women trying to reinterpret their religion with a feminist point of view. Sadia Ali wrote this blog post about her discovery of Muslim feminists online and how she went on to create pages on several social media platforms for these women to be able to collaboratively study the role of their gender within Islam. She reports that the conversations that ensued between women on these sites are harmonious, empathetic and genuinely curious. Some reject the idea that social roles should be based on gender while some do not. Most basically and most practically, ICTs contribute to development improving access to necessary information. However, I believe that  the ICT of social media can go beyond these basics. Allowing a marginalized population to virtually come together can redevelop cultural values and preconceived notions, with time potentially leading to a widespread lifestyle change. I know this sounds overly optimistic, bordering on naive (unless I’m already there), but a culture’s reconsideration of its treatment and perception of either gender must begin with an honest conversation, particularly revolving around the original source (whether it be a holy text, constitution, etc.). Although cyberactivism is not completely understood and is widely criticized for not making a significant impact, it does have the ability to open up such conversation, as exemplified by Ali’s Muslim Feminism Facebook page.


about.me

About.me is best described as an all inclusive page about yourself. On about.me you can upload your resume, your business card, and connect it to pretty much any other social media website that you use. I would compare about.me to myspace for business professionals. This is because with about.me your home page is very visual. Unlike on facebook or linkedin, about.me has the ability to edit a background picture and control all of the different fonts, so that when people are viewing your page they are not only seeing the content that you are putting up, but they are also seeing all of the different visual aspects to make your page yours and visually appealing. About.me is used a lot by different freelance workers as a way to promote themselves and is used instead of making an entire website. On your about.me homepage you see different people popping up in a similar fashion to the facebook newsfeed. The picture of the person is the largest thing, taking up nearly the entire page, again emphasizing the visual aspect of the website. Underneath the picture you can see the person’s name and the beginning of their bio. When clicking on their page you can be connected to all of the social media websites that the person is connected to, along with a big background picture and fun fonts. Returning to the homepage, when looking at different people you can view their profile, compliment them, or add them to a collection. All in all about.me is essentially a mini website for business individuals looking for work or just to put themselves out there.


SOS via SMS

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“I want to draw your attention to a gap that exists today between the public’s use of social media in a disaster and the ability of disaster response organizations and relief agencies to act on that information.” In a testimony to Congress in 2011, Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the American Red Cross, brings to light a key issue area in current disaster relief strategy. The potential value of social media during disaster situations is enormous, more and more often people are using social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook to alert others of their well-being (or not) and whereabouts immediately after a disaster. While social media may not be accessible to some in lesser developed countries, mobile phones and texting is almost an universal function that is available globally. The 2010 Emergency Social Data Summit at the American Red Cross identified key benefits and challenges associated with the use of texting in a disaster situation. Their report identified texting as the most accessible technology across socio-economic groups. Furthermore, texting costs less and requires less bandwidth then say a phone call, a tweet, or a Facebook post.

A priority of disaster response is making the situation less chaotic. By encouraging citizens participation and empowering people to contribute to the relief effort on the ground, a sense of order and accomplishment can be achieved. Using text messages to send out information about shelters, food and water resources, or first aid stations could save precious time and help agencies efficiently distribute their resources. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate emphasizes the importance of enabling people to see themselves as survivors, not victims, of a disaster. Social media and text messaging could be a viable means for empowerment. Citizen reporting can be extremely useful and is sometimes the only information aid agencies have available, yet presents the following challenges: (1) Misinformation (2) Overwhelming the system (3) Language (4) Platform Failure. In order to overcome these challenges the public must be educated on the appropriate manner in which to contact aid agencies before a disaster, so as to manage the response expectations. Furthermore, one single agency or social media platform should not be responsible for all requests; a collaborative effort is much less vulnerable to shocks and unprecedented failures. The potential technology has to coordinate relief efforts and save lives is astounding, aid agencies simply must keep up with technological advances while staying in tune with public use. 


The Role of Social Media in Protests in Argentina

Argentina has quickly become one of the countries with the highest social media use. It is currently ranked at #3 in the world in terms of hours spent on social media every month. According to a recent article published on Latin Link, for every 8 minutes spent on the Internet, 3.5 of those are spent on social media (statistics from comScore & Brandemia). Changes can be seen not only in the social sphere, but also in the political sphere thanks to this rapid increase in social media use.

A series of protests in November 2012 and April 2013 in Argentina were the result of organizers taking to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Discontent with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had been building and the people chose to use these sites as an organizing tool. This has been seen in a number of political movements in recent years. Without Facebook and Twitter there is doubt that the protests would have been as large or as widespread. Protests in the city of Buenos Aires were coordinated with protests in other cities on the same days. Facebook and Twitter were crucial to this coordination. It will be interesting to see how social media use continues to impact the political landscape in Argentina.


Social Media — Helping and Hurting Egypt

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While social media can play a big role in a revolution, it also has the ability to be detrimental to a population. This has been seen in Egypt, where social media such as Facebook and Twitter originally allowed people to find out about mass rallies and provided platforms for their ideas. However, now social media has provided a platform for rumors and creating anger in the population.

Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube have become platforms for false reports in order to create anger in the population. There have been anonymous posts done to incite violence between groups in the population, such as Muslims against the Christians and vice versa. On Facebook and Twitter there have been posts such as “security forces are firing on unarmed protesters” or “Muslims are attacking the Christians”. While these were later found to be false, the social media platforms were able to get large groups of people to certain areas to direct their anger at the other group. There have even been Youtube videos posted to create the same sort of anger. They would use old videos out of context to make it seem worth fighting over. For example, a video posted in 2011 showed an Egyptian policeman throwing a protestors body into a rubbish heap resulted in public outrage. However, it was later discovered that the incident hadn’t even taken place in Egypt. Since the Internet is not as widely checked as other media sources, such as TV or radio, it makes it easier for people to use them in negative ways.

Social media has the potential to be a revolutionary tool. However, if not used correctly, it can create more problems than solutions. People want their freedom of expression and therefore wouldn’t agree to social media being regulated. That means that there is no way to know if what you are reading is credible, unless it is from a credible source. Since anyone has the ability to post on the Internet, it is important for people to take the information with a grain of salt.

Read the article here.


Social Media in the 2013 Brazilian Protests

This week in class, we have talked about the power of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in fostering revolutionary activity, especially during the Arab Spring. According to the study done by Howard et. al., social media helped shape political debates in the Arab Spring and discussions on sites such as Facebook often immediately preceded major protests on the ground. Use of social media also helped garner international support for the movements in the Middle East. An interesting case to compare to the Arab Spring is the recent protests in Brazil that have actively used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. The protests started when the government raised bus fares in some of Brazil’s major cities, but soon spread to critiquing other issues, especially the government’s excessive spending building massive stadiums for the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil. The protesters are mostly middle-class, educated, and under the age of 30. It is interesting to compare these protests to the Arab Spring because they have used social media in similar ways. Like the Arab Spring movement, young Brazilian protesters have used social media sites to coordinate events and spread their message internationally. However, unlike the Arab Spring, the Brazilian protests are not directed against any one leader in particular and their demands are not as concrete. In an NBC News article, Caroline Stauffer reports that social media has not only helped coordinate the actions of the Brazilian protesters, but it has only splintered the movement in some ways. She cites the fact that the movement has no clear leadership. Social media allows these young protesters to coordinate anonymously and without a defined group of people at the head of the movement. This has caused some confusion within the movement, and some of the protests have turned violent, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to stop demonstrators. I think that this case is especially interesting because it shows that social media can be a democratic way to organize protests and spread a message, but that it also has the potential to fragment a movement due to a lack of a clear leadership base or concrete demands. Social media is a very new tool in organizing revolutions, and it is important to take into account all of its possible advantages and disadvantages.

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